The Effects of Uncontrolled Diabetes

Published on 
June 18, 2024
January 4, 2023
Dr. Kayla Cunningham
Dr. Kayla Cunningham
Dr. Kayla Cunningham

1 in 10 Americans struggle with diabetes, and more than 90% of them have type 2 diabetes. If left alone, uncontrolled type 2 diabetes can wreak havoc on the body and lead to serious complications. 

What does it mean to have uncontrolled diabetes?

Your body needs protein, fat, and sugar for energy. If the sugar builds up in the blood instead of being used for energy, that sugary blood hurts circulation and causes damage.  Uncontrolled diabetes means your system has been overloaded with with sugar too long. The way we test for this is with an A1c test that shows what percent of sugary blood you have. For most adults with diabetes, uncontrolled diabetes is when your A1c is 7% or higher, according to the American Diabetes Association. An A1c over 9% is often referred to as very poor control. Higher A1c levels increase a person’s  risk of diabetes complications like heart, eye, nerve, or kidney disease. When A1c levels are not safe for your body, you should talk to your doctor about making lifestyle changes or trying another treatment approach to lower blood sugar into a safe range. 

What causes uncontrolled type 2 diabetes?

Uncontrolled type 2 diabetes can be caused by:

  • Not taking medications properly.
  • Not enough medication or other therapies.
  • Eating too many  starchy, or sugary foods (it’s not just the sweet snacks!).
  • Not getting enough exercise. 
  • Undiagnosed and untreated diabetes.
  • Weighing more than your body’s insulin can keep up with

Short-term complications of uncontrolled diabetes

In the short term, uncontrolled unstable diabetes can cause symptoms like:

  • Very high blood sugar (hyperglycemia)
  • Very low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)¹
  • Frequent urination
  • Intense thirst 
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Slow-healing sores
  • Increased infections
  • Very dry skin
  • Numbness or tingling of your hands or feet
  • Blurry vision 
  • Increased hunger²
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Sweating
  • Shaking³

Long-term complications of uncontrolled diabetes 

Long-term problems from uncontrolled diabetes include:

  • Vision problems, including difficulty seeing at night, sensitivity to light and blindness.  
  • Nerve damage, causing numbness, tingling and burning, particularly in your hands and feet. It can also make it harder for males to achieve an erection. 
  • Increased risk of stroke, heart attack and other circulation problems 
  • Kidney damage that can end in kidney failure and dialysis. 
  • Issues digesting your food properly, leading to loose bowel movements or constipation. 
  • Sores and infections on the skin, potentially leading to amputations. 
  • Depression. 
  • Weakened immune system. 
  • Irregular periods in females.
  • Infertility. 
  • Increased risk of dementia.⁴

What organs are affected by uncontrolled diabetes?

Uncontrolled diabetes can damage your:

  • Brain
  • Eyes 
  • Nerves
  • Heart 
  • Kidneys
  • Digestive system
  • Blood vessels
  • Skin⁵

Signs you might have uncontrolled diabetes

If you notice the symptoms mentioned above or you have a difficult time maintaining healthy blood sugar levels despite trying different techniques to manage it, your diabetes may be getting worse. 

Take back control from type 2 diabetes

Having uncontrolled diabetes can feel incredibly hard and overwhelming. But there’s hope – there are some clinically proven methods for reversing type 2 diabetes and for lowering your blood sugar. Virta Health provides virtual care for people with type 2 diabetes by supporting lifestyle and dietary changes with resources like 1:1 coaching, and on-call physicians. 

If you’re ready to take back control of your health, Virta may be able to help. See if you’re eligible for Virta here.

This blog is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or any advice relating to your health. View full disclaimer

Are you living with type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, or unwanted weight?

Check to see if your health plan or employer covers Virta
Check Eligibility
  1. Diabetes Complications,” NIH National Library of Medicine,
  2. “Diabetes Symptoms,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
  3. “Manage Blood Sugar,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
  4. “Long-term complications of diabetes,” NIH National Library of Medicine,
  5.  “Long-term complications of diabetes” 

Frequently Asked Questions

No items found.