The Impact of Diabetes

Diabetes affects your entire body. It can increase your risk for numerous other health problems, such as heart and kidney disease, nerve damage and problems with your eyes and skin — even your teeth and gums.

But keeping blood glucose levels under control, eating right and staying physically active can help prevent or delay many of these problems. Here are some other tips for keeping complications at bay.

HEART AND BLOOD VESSEL PROBLEMS
Problem: Two out of three people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke, which can occur when blood vessels get clogged. Clogged blood vessels in the legs can cause peripheral arterial disease (PAD), which is also more common in people with diabetes.

Prevent it: If you smoke, quit. Keep A1C levels at or below seven percent. Lower blood pressure to less than 140/80 mmHg. Doing these things will also reduce your chances of developing kidney disease. Also, keep LDL cholesterol under 100 mg/dl, and talk to your healthcare provider about taking aspirin or other antiplatelet medicines. Finally, incorporate exercise, such as brisk walking, into your daily routine.

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EYE DISORDERS
Problem: People with diabetes have a higher risk of becoming blind than those who don’t have diabetes. However, most people with diabetes experience only minor eye disorders.

Prevent it: Keep blood glucose levels tightly controlled. High blood glucose levels can cause blurry vision and other problems. Keep blood pressure under control — when it gets high it can make eye problems worse. If you smoke, quit. See an eye care professional at least once a year for a dilated eye exam.

FEET AND NERVE DAMAGE
Problem: People with diabetes often develop nerve damage (neuropathy), which can be painful. However, it can also lessen your ability to feel pain, heat and cold. That’s dangerous, because it means you may not know when you’ve injured yourself, or when you develop a blister on your well-being your foot, step on a tack or get a stone in your shoe. Nerve damage can also change the shape of your feet and toes.

Prevent it: Check your feet every day for signs of blisters, calluses, sores or foot ulcers. Use a pumice stone on wet skin after you shower, then rub with lotion to keep calluses under control. If your feet change shape, do not try forcing them into regular shoes — get therapeutic shoes. If you find ulcers, have them treated, even if they don’t hurt. Untreated ulcers and other foot problems can lead to amputations.

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TEETH AND GUMS
Problem: Poor blood glucose control can lead to gum disease, and people with diabetes are more likely to get it
your well-being than those who don’t have diabetes.

Prevent it: Brush, floss and see your dentist regularly.

SKIN
Problem: People with diabetes develop skin problems — such as bacterial and fungal infections — more easily than others. In fact, skin problems can be the first sign that someone has diabetes.

Prevent it: Keep blood glucose levels under control. Keep skin clean and dry. Avoid very hot baths and showers. Treat cuts right away. Use mild shampoos. See a doctor for any skin problems that you cannot resolve quickly on your own.