A key goal of diabetes treatment is to prevent complications because, over time, diabetes can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves, although the person may not know damage is taking place. It’s important to diagnose and treat diabetes early, because it can cause damage even before it makes someone feel ill.

How diabetes causes long-term problems is unclear. However, changes in the small blood vessels and nerves are common. These changes may be the first step toward many problems that diabetes causes. Scientists can’t predict who among people with diabetes will develop complications, but complications are most likely to occur in someone who has had diabetes for many years. However, because a person can have diabetes without knowing it, a complication may be the first sign.

The goals of diabetes treatment are to keep blood glucose within normal range and to prevent long-term complications. This is because diabetes treatment can reduce symptoms, like thirst and weakness, and the chances of long-term problems, like heart and eye disease. If treatment with diet and exercise isn’t effective, a doctor may prescribe oral medications or insulin. There is no known cure for diabetes; daily treatment must continue throughout a person’s lifetime.

In some people, exercise can help keep weight and diabetes under control. However, when diet and exercise alone can’t control diabetes, two other kinds of treatment are available: oral diabetes medications and insulin. The treatment a doctor suggests depends on the person’s age, lifestyle, and the severity of the diabetes.