7% of the American population, or 20.8 million children and adults living within the continental United States suffer from diabetes. While an estimated 14.6 million have been diagnosed with diabetes, it is estimated that roughly 6.2 million people (or nearly one-third) are unaware that they have the disease.
Diabetes is associated with an increased risk for a number of serious, sometimes life-threatening complications. Some of the major complications resulting from unchecked diabetes are:
Heart disease and stroke
Heart disease and stroke account for about 65% of deaths in people with diabetes.
Adults with diabetes have heart disease death rates about 2 to 4 times higher than adults without diabetes.
High blood pressure
About 73% of adults with diabetes have blood pressure greater than or equal to 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or use prescription medications for hypertension.
Diabetic retinopathy causes approximately 12,000 to 24,000 new cases of blindness each year. This makes diabetes the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults between 20-74 years of age.
Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, accounting for 44% of new cases in 2002. In people with type 1 diabetes, therapy that keeps blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible reduces damage to the kidneys by 35% to 56% (New England Journal of Medicine, September 30, 1993).
Uncontrolled diabetes often leads to biochemical imbalances that can cause acute life-threatening events, such as diabetic ketoacidosis and hyperosmolar (nonketotic) coma.
People with diabetes are more susceptible to many other illnesses and, once they acquire these illnesses, often tend to have a worse prognoses.