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Preventing Diabetes Complications

Diabetic Retinopathy

All people with diabetes should see an ophthalmologist (an eye doctor) at least every year to look for signs of diabetic retinopathy. 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. In people with type 1 diabetes, these annual exams should start five years after puberty. People with eye disease caused by diabetes, 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). Controlling high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and keeping blood sugars in target range help reduce your risk of diabetic retinopathy.

For more detail, see WebMD's article Diabetic Retinopathy.

Gastroparesis and Diabetes

With gastroparesis, the nerves to the stomach are damaged and stop working properly. This causes the stomach to take too long to empty its contents and makes it difficult to manage blood sugar levels. Sometimes changing your diet can help. There are also medical treatments to treat gastroparesis. The most important thing to do to help prevent this complication is to keep your blood sugar as controlled as possible.

Ask for information on early warning signs so you can seek treatment when it is most effective.

For more detail, see WebMD's article Gastroparesis and Other Stomach Problems With Diabetes.

Erectile Dysfunction and Diabetes

Diabetes increases the chance of erectile dysfunction (impotence or ED). For some men, adopting a healthier lifestyle, such as quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and reducing stress, may be all that is needed to resolve erectile dysfunction. Uncontrolled blood sugars and high blood pressure can lead to damage of blood vessels and nerves in the penis, causing impotency. It's important to talk to your health care provider about your erectile dysfunction as your doctor can recommend other remedies -- including medications, a vacuum constriction device (VCD), and other erectile dysfunction aids -- that can help. ED can also be a sign of cardiovascular disease.

For more detail, see WebMD's article Erectile Dysfunction & Diabetes.

Skin Problems and Diabetes

As many as a third of people with diabetes will have a skin condition related to diabetes at some time in their lives. High levels of glucose in the blood provide an excellent breeding ground for bacteria and fungi, and can reduce the body's ability to heal itself. Fortunately, most skin conditions can be prevented and successfully treated if caught early. But if not cared for properly, a minor skin condition can turn into a serious problem with potentially severe consequences.

For more detail, see WebMD's article Skin Problems in Diabetes.

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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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