Rehab Select Blog

Millions Have Diabetes And Don't Know It: Are You At Risk?

Posted by Bobby Stephenson

Jan 22, 2015, 8:00:00 AM

Millions_Have_Diabetes_And_Dont_Know_ItType 2 diabetes is a serious and very common metabolic disease that has far-ranging effects on the body, increasing a person's risk of many other serious health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and blindness. 


According to the American Diabetes Association's latest statistics, 29.1 million Americans have diabetes, a figure that represents 9.3 percent of the overall population. While that's a startling number, here is one that is even more so – among those 29.1 million people are 8.1 million who don't know they have diabetes. That means that nearly 1 of every 4 people with diabetes is undiagnosed – and therefore untreated. Why is that so important? Because diabetes can be controlled. When it is not controlled, risk of any number of serious and even life-threatening complications is extremely high.

Potential Complications Of Untreated Diabetes

Consistently high blood sugar, as occurs with uncontrolled diabetes, takes a harsh toll on every part of the body. The most common complication of untreated diabetes is a condition called diabetic retinopathy, which can cause gradual vision loss and blindness as high blood sugar weakens the small blood vessels in the eyes.

Kidney damage is a very common complication of uncontrolled blood sugar as well. In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of end-stage kidney disease that requires dialysis or kidney transplant. Uncontrolled diabetes also causes neuropathy, or nerve damage, which can affect most any part of the body, but is most common in the feet. Neuropathy causes a loss of sensation, and places people at higher risk of sores and infections that can lead to amputations.

Last, but certainly not least, are some of the most dangerous complications of untreated diabetes: Cardiovascular issues. Consistently high blood sugar causes gradual damage to the heart and blood vessels. People with uncontrolled diabetes are at high risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attack, heart failure, stroke and poor blood flow to the legs and feet.

Diabetes Risk Factors

Diabetes affects people of all ages and from all walks of life. However, there are certain factors that can place a person at higher-than-average risk for the disease. Among these diabetes risk factors are advancing age, overweight or obesity, hypertension, a sedentary lifestyle, a family history of diabetes or a history of gestational diabetes during pregnancy. A diagnosis of pre-diabetes or insulin resistance is a major risk factor, greatly increasing risk of developing full-blown type 2 diabetes.

How To Find Out If You Have Diabetes

Many people with undiagnosed diabetes present no clear symptoms to alert them of the disease, making routine screening tests a precaution that everyone should take, but most especially those with diabetes risk factors. Routine screening tests that may be used to screen for diabetes include urine tests that are used to detect high sugar levels in the urine, or blood tests that measure blood sugar levels in the bloodstream. These tests are quick and simple, and can be done as part of an annual physical check-up.

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Topics: Diabetes Management