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Preventing Diabetes Complications

There are many things you can do to help prevent the development and progression of diabetes-related complications. Here are some tips.

  • Eye disease (retinopathy). All people with diabetes should see an eye doctor (either an ophthalmologist or optometrist) every year.  The doctor will dilate your eyes so that he or she can see the back of the eye and determine if the diabetes is causing damage. For people with type 2 diabetes, these checkups should start soon after the diagnosis of diabetes is made. In people over the age of 10 years with type 1 diabetes, these annual exams should start five years after the diagnosis of diabetes has been made. People with diabetes and eye disease, blurred vision in one eye, or blind spots may need to see their ophthalmologist more frequently. Women with diabetes who become pregnant should have a comprehensive eye exam during the first trimester and close follow-up with an eye doctor during their pregnancy. (This recommendation does not apply to women who develop gestational diabetes.)

  • Kidney disease (nephropathy). Urine testing should be performed yearly to look for kidney damage and a yearly creatinine blood test should also be done to monitor your kidney function. Your health care provider will also check your blood pressure regularly since control of high blood pressure is essential in slowing kidney disease. Blood pressure should be less than 130/80. 
  • Heart disease. At every visit, your health care provider will check your blood pressure. Your blood cholesterol level and triglycerides should be checked at your first visit. A baseline EKG may also be obtained as part of a complete medical record. Your doctor will then consider all of these risks when determining how to monitor you for heart disease.
  • Nerve disease (neuropathy). Numbness, tingling, burning, or pain in your feet or hands should be reported to your health care provider at your regular visits. You should check your feet daily for redness, calluses, cracks, or skin breakdown. If you notice any of these symptoms before your scheduled visit, notify your health care provider immediately. Your doctor or podiatrist (foot doctor) will check your feet initially and each year for nerve problems. If you have type 1 diabetes, these checkups will begin five years after the diagnosis of diabetes.
  • Dental Problems. People with diabetes are more likely to have problems with their teeth and gums. Taking good care of your gums and teeth is very important. Have a dental checkup every six months.
  • Hyperglycemic Hyperosmolar Nonketotic Syndrome (HHNS). HHNS is a serious complication that can happen to a person with type 2 (and, rarely, type 1) diabetes who is ill or stressed. This condition occurs when the blood sugar gets too high and the body becomes dehydrated. To prevent HHNS: check your blood sugar regularly, as recommended by your health care provider; when you are sick, check your blood sugar more frequently and take special care of yourself.
  • Hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, happens when there is too much sugar in the blood. When you have hyperglycemia frequently or for long periods of time, damage to nerves, blood vessels, and other body organs can occur. To prevent hyperglycemia: Make sure you are following your meal plan, exercise program, and medicine schedule; Test your blood sugar regularly; Know when to contact your health care provider if you have repeated abnormal blood sugar readings.
  • Hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, occurs when your blood sugar level is 70 mg/dL or less. Hypoglycemia develops when there is too much insulin and not enough sugar in your body. It requires immediate treatment. To prevent hypoglycemia: 
    • Follow your meal plan
    • Eat at least three evenly spaced meals each day with between-meal snacks as prescribed
    • Double-check your insulin and oral glucose-lowering medicine dose before taking it
    • Know when your medicine is at its peak level
    • Carry something with sugar in it with you at all times
    • Test your blood sugar as often as directed by your health care provider.
    • If you take insulin or certain medications, ask your doctor about checking your blood sugar before exercising.

 

Recommended Related to Diabetes

Does Prediabetes Lead to Diabetes?

In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our January-February 2011 issue, we asked WebMD's diabetes expert, Michael Dansinger, MD, to answer a question about the link between prediabetes and diabetes. Q: At my last checkup, my doctor told me I have prediabetes. Does that mean I'll ultimately develop diabetes? A: Almost everyone who develops type 2 diabetes develops prediabetes first. But not everyone who has prediabetes...

Read the Does Prediabetes Lead to Diabetes? article > >

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on May 15, 2012

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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