Do your blood glucose levels regularly fall outside your target range? That’s a sign of poorly controlled diabetes. When left uncontrolled, diabetes can cause serious health problems. That’s true whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. However, with type 2 diabetes, lifestyle changes can make a big difference in helping to get your blood glucose levels under control.

Your recommended treatment plan for type 2 diabetes may include healthy lifestyle choices, such as exercising regularly and eating a well-balance diet. Learn about five complications associated with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes, and why it’s so important to follow your treatment plan.

1. Skin conditions

Poorly controlled diabetes puts you at higher risk of bacterial and fungal skin infections. It can also lead to other diabetes-related skin conditions, such as eruptive xanthomatosis.

Diabetes-related complications can cause one or more of the following skin symptoms:

  • pain
  • itchiness
  • redness or discoloration
  • scaly, shiny, or raised patches
  • rashes, blisters, or boils
  • styes on your eyelids
  • inflamed hair follicles
  • firm, yellow, pea-sized bumps
  • thick, waxy skin

To lower your risk of skin conditions, follow your recommended diabetes treatment plan and practice good skin care. A good skin care routine may include keeping your skin clean and moisturized, and checking for signs of injury. If you develop symptoms of a skin condition, make an appointment with your doctor.

2. Vision loss

Uncontrolled diabetes increases your chances of developing several eye conditions, including:

  • glaucoma, which happens when pressure builds up in your eye
  • cataracts, which occur when the lens of your eye becomes cloudy
  • retinopathy, which develops when blood vessels in the back of your eye become damaged

Over time, these conditions can cause vision loss. Fortunately, early diagnosis and treatment can help you maintain your eyesight. In addition to following your recommended diabetes treatment plan, make sure to schedule regular eye exams. If you notice changes in your vision, make an appointment with your eye doctor.

3. Nerve damage

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), about half of people with diabetes have nerve damage, known as diabetic neuropathy.

Several types of neuropathy can develop as a result of diabetes. Peripheral neuropathy can affect your feet and legs, as well as your hands and arms. Potential symptoms include:

  • tingling
  • burning, stabbing, or shooting pain
  • increased or decreased sensitivity to touch or temperature
  • weakness
  • loss of coordination
  • slow-healing sores

Autonomic neuropathy can affect your digestive system, bladder, genitals, and other organs. Potential symptoms include:

  • bloating
  • indigestion
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • loss of control of your bladder or bowels
  • frequent urinary tract infections
  • erectile dysfunction
  • vaginal dryness
  • dizziness
  • fainting
  • increased or reduced sweating

Other types of neuropathy can affect your joints, face, eyes, or torso. To lower your risk of neuropathy, keep your blood glucose levels under control. If you develop symptoms of neuropathy, make an appointment with your doctor. They might order tests to check your nerve function. They should also conduct regular foot exams to check for signs of neuropathy.

4. Kidney disease

High blood glucose levels increase the strain on your kidneys. Over time, this can lead to kidney disease. Early-stage kidney disease usually causes no symptoms. However, late-stage kidney disease can cause:

  • fluid buildup
  • loss of sleep
  • loss of appetite
  • stomach upset
  • weakness
  • trouble concentrating

To help manage your risk of kidney disease, it’s important to keep your blood glucose and blood pressure levels under control. There are also medications that can help slow the progression of kidney disease. You should also visit your doctor for regular check-ups. They can check your urine and blood for signs of kidney damage.

5. Heart disease and stroke

In general, type 2 diabetes increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. However, the risk may be even higher if your condition isn’t well-controlled. That’s because high blood glucose damages your cardiovascular system over time.

People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease than people who don’t have diabetes. They’re also one and a half times more likely to experience a stroke than those who don’t diabetes.

The warning signs of stroke include:

  • numbness or weakness on one side of your body
  • loss of balance or coordination
  • difficulty talking
  • vision changes
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • headache

If you develop warning signs of a stroke or heart attack, contact your local emergency medical services (911) immediately.

The warning signs for a heart attack include:

  • chest pressure or discomfort
  • shortness of breath
  • sweating
  • dizziness
  • nausea

To lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, it’s important to keep your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels in check. It’s also important to eat a well-balanced diet, get regular physical activity, avoid smoking, and take medications as prescribed by your doctor.

The takeaway

Uncontrolled diabetes can cause serious complications. These complications can potentially lower your quality of life, raise your risk of disability, and increase your chances of early death.

Fortunately, you can take steps to manage your diabetes and lower your risk of complications. Follow your doctor’s recommended treatment plan to keep your blood glucose levels under control. For type 2 diabetes, a treatment plan may include lifestyle changes, such as a weight loss program or increased exercise. Your doctor can provide advice about how to make these changes, or refer you to other health professionals, such as a dietician.

If you develop signs or symptoms of type 2 diabetes complications, make an appointment with your doctor. They might order tests, prescribe medications, or recommend other treatments to help manage your symptoms. They might also recommend changes to your overall diabetes treatment plan.