Diabetes is the fifth-deadliest disease in the United States. The annual cost of diabetes in 2002 was estimated to be $132 billion, or one out of every 10 health-care dollars spent in the nation.
According to Susan Akridge, program manager of Robinwood Endocrinology, the elevated blood glucose associated with diabetes causes damage to the body's cells. It also can lead to complications such as blindness, kidney disease, nerve disease and amputation. Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness with 12,000 to 24,000 people a year losing their sight due to diabetes. It also is the leading cause of end-stage renal disease with about 41,000 people with diabetes starting treatment for kidney failure in 2000 and 129,183 undergoing dialysis or kidney transplantation. Diabetes is the leading cause of nontraumatic lower limb amputations with more than 82,000 amputations performed on people with diabetes each year.
The most life-threatening consequences of diabetes are heart disease and stroke. A diagnosis of diabetes in an adult presents the same risk as already having one heart attack. More than 65 percent of the deaths of diabetics are attributed to heart and vascular disease. Heart disease strikes people with diabetes twice as often as those who do not have the disease.