Diabetes affects your entire body and increases your risk for many serious health problems, but complications are avoidable. You can prevent or delay complications. You can manage your blood sugar (glucose), eat healthy foods and be physically active. You also can get screening tests to prevent or diagnose and manage other conditions. It is also important to work to keep blood pressure and cholesterol within the range prescribed by your doctor.
Prevent or Delay Complications
Complications may be prevented or delayed by managing diabetes and keeping blood sugar within the range prescribed by your healthcare team. Consult your doctor for treatment if you develop any of the following conditions:
People with diabetes tend to get bacterial infections more easily than those without the disease. Common ones include styes (infections in the glands of the eyelids), boils, infections in the hair follicles, carbuncles, and infections around the finger or toenails. Inflamed tissues are usually hot, swollen, red, and painful.
Some people with diabetes also are troubled by fungal infections, most commonly candida albicans. This is a yeast-like fungus that may cause an itchy red rash surrounded by tiny blisters and scales in the warm, moist folds of the skin. Other fungal infections include jock itch, athlete’s foot, ringworm, and vaginal infections. Itching is a frequent problem for people with diabetes, particularly in the lower legs.
You may have heard that diabetes can cause damage to your eyes and cause poor vision or blindness. But there is good news. You can prevent diabetic eye disease or keep it from getting worse by managing diabetes. The most common eye problems affecting people with diabetes are diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma.
Nerve damage from diabetes is called diabetic neuropathy. Over time, high blood sugar levels and high levels of fats (such as triglycerides) in the blood from diabetes can damage your nerves. Symptoms depend on the type of diabetic neuropathy. Different types of nerve damage cause symptoms that range from pain and numbness in your feet to problems with the way your internal organs (such as your heart and bladder) function.
Foot problems are common in people with diabetes and often cause concern. It’s possible to prevent diabetes-related foot conditions by managing your blood sugar, washing and checking your feet daily, and following up with your doctor if problems begin. Look for signs of cuts, sores or red spots, swelling or blisters, ingrown toenails, corns or calluses, plantar warts, athlete’s foot, and warm spots.
Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease. Diabetic kidney disease (nephropathy) damages cells and blood vessels in the kidneys. It affects the kidneys’ ability to filter out waste. Diabetic kidney disease happens slowly and silently. You might not feel that anything is wrong until severe problems develop. You can do a lot to prevent kidney problems. Get your blood and urine checked each year. Keep your blood sugar and blood pressure levels in a healthy range, as prescribed by your doctor.
If you have diabetes, the changes you experience during pregnancy will affect your blood sugar levels. It may require more effort to manage them. Checking your blood sugar levels regularly is a key part of taking good care of yourself and your baby. Your doctor will give you target blood sugar levels. This will help you decrease the risk of birth defects, miscarriage and help your baby to have a healthy weight at birth.
Some women can develop gestational diabetes. This doesn't mean you had diabetes before you conceived or that you will have diabetes after you give birth. Doctors usually test for gestational diabetes between weeks 24 and 28 of pregnancy. It's important to follow your doctor's advice regarding blood sugar levels during your pregnancy so you and your baby are healthy.
Gum Disease and Other Dental Problems
People with diabetes are more likely to have problems with their teeth and gums if their blood sugar is not managed. Sore, swollen, and red gums that bleed when you brush your teeth are signs of a dental problem called gingivitis. Another problem, called periodontitis, happens when your gums shrink or pull away from your teeth. You can prevent these problems by keeping your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Floss once a day. Keep dentures clean. See the dentist twice a year for a dental examination and cleaning.
Heart Disease and Stroke
Having diabetes means that you are more likely to develop heart disease. You also have a greater chance of a heart attack or a stroke if your diabetes is not managed. People with diabetes are more likely to have certain conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol. These conditions can increase the chances of having heart disease or a stroke. You can protect your heart and health by managing your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. If you smoke, you should quit.