Controlling your blood sugar helps prevent serious complications involving major organs, including:

  • Heart and blood vessels: Increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure.
  • Nervous system: Damage to nerves (neuropathy)—particularly in the legs and feet, causing discomfort, pain and numbness.
  • Kidneys: Damage to the kidneys’ complex filtering system, kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease.
  • Eyes: Damage to retinal blood vessels (diabetic retinopathy) can lead to blindness, glaucoma and cataracts.
  • Feet: Nerve damage and poor blood flow raise the risk of serious infection and amputation.
  • Skin and mouth (gum) infections.
  • Bones: Low bone mineral density and increased risk of osteoporosis.
  • Mental state: Increased risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia from poor circulation

Diabetes complications typically develop over time. Day to day, some problems may arise despite your best efforts at blood sugar control.

Controlling Abnormal Sugar States

  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia): Raise your blood sugar level quickly by drinking fruit juice or sucking on hard candy. If this happens frequently, contact your doctor.
  • High blood sugar (hyperglycemia): When this occurs, contact your doctor. Exercising may help bring your sugar level down temporarily, but if your sugar level is higher than 240 mg/dL, DO NOT EXERCISE, as this could actually raise the level higher. Ignoring high blood sugar levels can lead to diabetic coma (diabetic ketoacidosis from high levels of ketones, or toxic acids, in your urine), which can be life-threatening.
  • Hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome (HHNS): develops over time and is seen typically in older diabetics or the chronically ill. This is a life-threatening medical emergency with blood sugar levels higher than 600 mg/dL, and thickened blood, fever higher than 101oF (38oC), dark urine, confusion, vision loss, sleepiness, and hallucinations. Seek medical help immediately.

If you have type 2 diabetes, an important way to be sure you get the right care quickly in an emergency is to wear a medical ID (identification) bracelet or necklace.