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Diabetes: 5 Steps to Total Body Care

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WebMD Feature

If you have type 2 diabetes, you know that blood sugar control, a balanced diet, weight management, regular exercise, and checkups are vital to your health. Taking special care of every part of your body to avoid serious complications is just as critical.

Among some of your biggest concerns with diabetes care are:

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  • Foot infections
  • Chronic skin infections
  • Gum disease and tooth loss
  • Vision problems
  • Heart disease and blood circulation problems

Diabetes Body Care: It's for Everyone

The need to take care of yourself isn't just for adults; with the epidemic of childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes has also become more prevalent among children, teens, and young adults.

"In hospitals, we're seeing first-time patients in their late 20s and 30s who have uncontrolled blood sugar and severe skin infections that probably started as a boil or a spider bite," says Philip Orlander, MD, director of endocrinology at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

How can diabetes so dramatically damage the body? If blood sugar is uncontrolled, blood vessels and nerves become damaged, while the body becomes less able to fight infections.

Controlling blood sugar is the bottom line in preventing these problems, but personal care routines -- simple things you can do every day -- can dramatically reduce your risks, too.

5 Steps to Total Diabetes Body Care

Your feet, skin, eyes, heart, and teeth and gums need special attention if you have diabetes. Here are steps you can take to care for these parts of your body:

1. Foot Care and Diabetes

Common foot problems can cause many complications, including athlete's foot, fungal infections in nails, calluses, corns, blisters, bunions, dry skin, sores, hammertoes, ingrown toenails, and plantar warts.

While anyone can have these problems, they're more critical for people with diabetes because:

  • If you have nerve damage, you may not feel small wounds that need treatment.
  • Poor blood flow can slow wound healing.
  • If you're immune suppressed, you may be more prone to infection.
  • Damaged foot muscle nerves may prevent your foot from aligning properly, causing you to put more pressure on one area of the foot, leading to foot sores and pressure point ulcers.

Prevention tips: Make time for foot care daily. Wash, dry and examine the tops and bottoms of your feet. Check for cracked skin, cuts, scratches, wounds, blisters, redness, calluses, and other changes. Use antibiotic creams recommended by your doctor and apply sterile bandages to protect cuts. Prevent ingrown toenails by cutting toenails straight across; don't cut corners. Don't go barefoot and always protect your feet. Make sure you wear properly fitting footwear.

If you develop even minor foot problems, treat them right away or see a doctor. And see a foot doctor (podiatrist) every two or three months.

Checking your feet daily means you can catch small things and get them treated before they become serious. Make it part of your daily morning routine -- it doesn't take long.

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