The biggest problem
for people with diabetes is heart and blood vessel disease. Heart
and blood vessel disease can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and
high blood pressure. It also causes poor blood flow (circulation)
in the legs and feet.
To check for heart and
blood vessel disease, the doctor will do some tests. Once a year,
you should have an EKG (electrocardiogram) to check your heart and
a blood test (called a cholesterol test) to check how much fat is
in your blood vessels. The doctor should take your blood pressure
at every visit. The doctor may also check pulse rates in your feet
and legs to see if you have good circulation.
The best way to prevent
heart and blood vessel disease is to take good care of yourself
and your diabetes. Other ways to prevent this disease are:
- Eat foods that
are low in fat and salt.
- Take your high
blood pressure medicine.
- Don't smoke.
- Get regular exercise.
- Lose weight,
if you need to.
- Limit your drinking
of beer, wine, or other alcohol.
Diabetes is the main
cause of blindness in adults in the United States. You should
have your eyes checked once a year. You may have eye problems
and not know it. Treating eye problems early can help prevent
High blood sugar can cause
the blood vessels in the eyes to bleed. This bleeding can lead to
blindness. You can help prevent eye damage by keeping your blood
sugar level as close to normal as possible. If your eyes are already
damaged, an eye doctor may be able to save your sight with laser
treatments or surgery.
The best way to stop eye
disease is to have a yearly eye exam. In this exam, the doctor or
nurse puts drops in your eyes to make your pupils get bigger (dilate).
This is called a "dilated eye exam." The drops make the pupils big
so that the doctor can see into the back of the eye. The exam does
not hurt. If you have never had an eye exam like this, you should
have one now. Do this even if you have no trouble with your eyes.
Here are some other rules
for taking care of your eyes:
Tell your doctor right
away if you have any problems with your eyes. These problems include
blurry sight or seeing dark spots, flashing lights, or rings around
- For people with
insulin-dependent diabetes: Have your eyes examined when you
have had diabetes for 5 years and every year after that first
eye exam. (Children should have an eye exam in their early teens).
- For people who
got diabetes as an adult: Have an eye exam right away and then
once a year after the first eye exam.
- For women planning
to have a baby: Have an eye exam before becoming pregnant.
See your eye doctor
for an eye exam with dilated pupils every year. Early treatment
of eye problems can help save your sight.
Your kidneys help clean
waste products from your blood. They also work to keep the right
balance of salt and fluid in your body.
Too much sugar in your
blood is very hard on your kidneys. After a number of years, high
blood sugar can cause the kidneys to stop working. This condition
is called kidney failure. Diabetes is the main cause of kidney failure.
Your doctor should test
your urine once a year for signs of kidney damage. A blood pressure
medicine (called an ACE inhibitor) can help prevent kidney damage.
Ask your doctor if this medicine might help you. Other ways to help
prevent kidney problems:
- Take your high
blood pressure medicine.
- Ask your doctor
or your dietitian if you should eat less meat, eggs, cheese,
milk, and fish.
- See your doctor
right away if you get a bladder or kidney infection. Signs of
bladder or kidney infections are cloudy or bloody urine, pain
or burning when you urinate, and having to urinate often or
in a hurry. Back pain, chills, and fever are also signs of kidney
Over time, high blood
sugar can harm the nerves in your body. Nerve damage from diabetes
can cause you to lose feeling in your feet or have painful, burning
feet. It can cause pain in your legs, arms, or hands. Nerve damage
can also cause problems with eating, going to the bathroom, or
Damage to nerves can happen
slowly. You may not even realize you have nerve problems because
you can't always feel them. Your doctor should check your nerves
once a year. Part of this exam should include tests to check your
sense of feeling and the pulses in your feet.
Tell the doctor about
any problems with your feet, legs, hands, or arms. Tell the doctor
if you have trouble eating, going to the bathroom, having sex, or
if you feel dizzy sometimes. Don't smoke. Smoking makes poor circulation
worse. Poor circulation can make foot problems worse.
Nerve damage to the
feet is a main cause of amputations in people with diabetes. You
may not feel pain from injuries or sore spots on your feet. If
you have poor circulation because of blood vessel problems in
your legs, the sores on your feet can't heal and might become
infected. If the infection is not treated, it could lead to amputation.
To help prevent nerve damage, check your feet every day.
There's a lot you can
do to prevent problems with your feet. Keeping your blood sugar
in good control and taking care of your feet can help protect
Check your bare feet
every day. Look for cuts, sores, bumps, red spots. Use a mirror
or ask a family member for help if you have trouble seeing the
bottoms of your feet.
- Wash your feet
in warm--not hot--water every day. Use a mild soap. Do not soak
your feet. Dry your feet with a soft towel. Dry between your
- Cover your feet
with a lotion or petroleum jelly after washing them, before
putting on your shoes and socks. Do not put the lotion or jelly
between your toes.
- Cut your toenails
straight across. Do not leave sharp edges that could cut the
- Use a dry towel
to rub away dead skin.
- Do not try to
cut calluses or corns yourself with a razor blade or knife.
Do not use wart removers on your feet. If you have warts or
painful corns or calluses, see a doctor who treats foot problems.
This kind of doctor is called a podiatrist.
- Wear thick, soft
socks. Do not wear mended stockings or stockings with holes
or seams that might rub into your feet.
- Check your shoes
before you put them on to be sure they have no sharp edges or
objects in them.
- Wear shoes that
fit well and let your toes move. Break in new shoes slowly.
Do not wear flip-flops, shoes with pointed toes, or plastic
shoes. Never go barefoot.
- Wear socks if
your feet are cold at night. Do not use heating pads or hot
water bottles on your feet.
- Have your doctor
check your bare feet at every visit. Take off your shoes and
socks when you go in the exam room. This will remind the doctor
to check your feet.
- See a podiatrist
for help if you can't take care of your feet yourself.
Diabetes can lead to
infections of the gums and bones that hold your teeth in place.
Like all infections, gum infections can cause blood sugar to rise,
making the problem worse. Without treatment, teeth may become
loose and fall out.
To help prevent damage
to your gums and teeth:
Keeping your blood
sugar in a good range, daily brushing and flossing of teeth, and
regular dental checkups are the best ways to prevent gum and teeth
problems when you have diabetes.
- See your dentist
twice a year. Tell your dentist that you have diabetes.
- Brush and floss
your teeth twice a day.
information was provided by The
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
This material is not copyrighted, and can be used, and is encouraged
for public use.