How to Prevent Diabetes Complications

If you have diabetes, you spend a lot of time keeping it under control. That’s good because it can cause a lot of complications that can affect nearly every organ in your body. Learn what you can do to prevent these problems.

Heart Disease

This is one of the most common diabetes complications. In office visits, your doctor may do tests that screen for heart disease to help you prevent serious problems. At every visit, he’ll check your blood pressure. He’ll probably test your blood for cholesterol level and triglycerides at your first visit. And he should do an EKG as part of a complete medical record. Learn more about your risks for heart disease. Does it run in your family? Do you smoke? Make a prevention plan that includes weight loss, regular exercise, and stress management, as well as keeping your blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides at normal levels.

For more detail, see Heart Disease and Diabetes.

Stroke

Symptoms of a stroke include:

  • Sudden weakness on one side of the face or body
  • Numbness in the face, arm, or leg
  • Trouble speaking
  • Trouble seeing
  • Dizziness

If you have any of these, see a doctor immediately. He may refer you to a neurologist or other stroke specialist.

For more detail, see Stroke and Diabetes.

Kidney Disease (Diabetic Nephropathy)

If you have diabetes, get your urine tested every year to look for kidney disease. Your doctor should do a creatinine blood test to check how these organs are working. He’ll also check your blood pressure regularly. It's key to slowing this disease. Your reading should be less than 130/80.

For more detail, see Diabetic Nephropathy.

Nerve Damage (Diabetic Neuropathy)

Over time, diabetes can cause nerve damage. You might feel numbness, burning, or pain in your hands, feet, or legs. If your skin loses feeling, you may not notice small wounds that could grow to become bigger ones. Check these parts of your body daily for redness, calluses, cracks, or other damage. If you notice any of these symptoms, tell your doctor right away.

For more detail, see Diabetic Neuropathy.

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Eye Damage (Diabetic Retinopathy)

To protect your vision, see an eye doctor at least once a year. He might dilate your pupils while you're there. People with type 1 diabetes who are older than 10 should start these visits within 3 to 5 years of diagnosis. If you have type 2 diabetes, make an appointment as soon as you’re diagnosed. If you have problems, you’ll need to go more often. If you get pregnant, schedule a comprehensive exam during the first trimester and a follow-up later in your pregnancy.

For more detail, see Diabetic Retinopathy.

Gastroparesis

Diabetes can damage the nerves that control your stomach so they stop working properly. Known as gastroparesis, this condition causes it to take too long to empty. That makes it hard for you to manage blood sugar levels. Sometimes a change in diet can help. There are medications and other treatments, too.

For more detail, see Gastroparesis and Other Stomach Problems With Diabetes.

Erectile Dysfunction

Diabetes makes men more likely to get erectile dysfunction or become impotent. Sometimes all you need to do is adopt a healthier lifestyle, quit smoking, exercise regularly, and reduce stress. It's important to talk to your doctor about these problems. He can suggest medications or remedies like a vacuum constriction device and other products.

For more detail, see Erectile Dysfunction & Diabetes.

Skin Problems

Many people with diabetes will have a skin condition related to it at some time in their lives. The sugar in your blood provides a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. It also lowers your body's ability to heal itself. Fortunately, most of these problems can be prevented and treated if caught early on. If you have type 2 diabetes and don’t take care of yourself, a minor scratch could turn into a serious infection.

For more detail, see Skin Problems in Diabetes.

Infection

Type 2 diabetes slows your body's ability to fight infection. High sugar levels in your body's tissues means bacteria grow more easily and infections set in more quickly. Common sites for them are your bladder, kidneys, vagina, gums, feet, and skin. Early treatment can prevent serious complications.

For more detail, see Diabetes and Infection.

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Dental Problems

The less controlled your blood sugar is, the more likely you’ll have problems in your mouth. That’s because the disease harms white blood cells, which are your body's main defense against oral infections. Brush, floss and rinse with antiseptic mouthwash each day. See your dentist for regular cleanings and checkups.

For more detail, see Dental Care and Diabetes.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on February 13, 2017

Sources

SOURCES: 

National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases: "Complications of Diabetes." 

American Diabetes Association: "Type 2 Diabetes Complications."

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