How to Avoid Complications From Type 1 Diabetes

Having type 1 diabetes means your body doesn’t make insulin. This hormone moves sugar (glucose) from your bloodstream into your cells, where it’s used for energy.

Without insulin, too much sugar builds up in your blood. That can damage your nerves and blood vessels, leading to serious health problems.

When you don't manage your diabetes and control your blood sugar, your whole body can pay the price. Some of the most common complications are:

You can’t completely erase your chances of developing these conditions, but you can lower the odds.

Watch Your Blood Sugar

High blood sugar levels can cause real damage to your body. That's why it’s important to keep your numbers in check every day. 

Ask your doctor about getting an A1c test. This tracks your average blood sugar over a period of a few months. It gives you a better, bigger picture of how well you’re managing your diabetes.

Know Your Other Numbers

You're much more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people without diabetes are, but you can lower your risk. 

Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in the healthy range. High numbers for both are common with diabetes, so remember to get them checked.

Stick to a Healthy Diet

Make smart food choices to help manage your blood sugar levels and keep your heart and kidneys healthy. Fill up on produce, fiber, and good fats. Avoid foods high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.

Get Moving

Exercise can lower your blood sugar level and your risk for all sorts of problems, like heart disease and stroke. It’s also good for your blood pressure and cholesterol. 

Talk with your doctor before you get started, though. They might warn you against some workouts with high-impact moves and heavy lifting. These can raise blood sugar.

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Protect Your Feet

Type 1 diabetes can take a toll on your feet. Nerve damage can make them numb or tingly, and it can weaken or destroy the tissue in them. Infections and ulcers are more likely.

Every day, give your feet a thorough once-over, looking for cuts, blisters, sores, red spots, nail infections, and numb areas.

Keep your feet clean and moisturized, and your nails trimmed. Wear socks and shoes that fit well. Going barefoot or wearing ill-fitting shoes that pinch could cause trouble.

Take Care of Your Pearly Whites

High blood sugar can make it easier for bacteria to grow inside your mouth. This can lead to plaque build-up and, eventually, gum disease. 

Brush and floss every day, as well as a daily rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash. Check your gums for redness, tenderness, or bleeding, which can point to gingivitis, an inflammation of your gums that's the start of gum disease.

Keep up With Appointments

Book regular checkups. Get an eye exam at least once a year, and see your dentist every 6 months. You’ll also need to have your feet examined. Get screened for kidney disease every year, too.

Kick the Habit

If you smoke, quit. Seriously, smoking is one of the worst things you can do when you have diabetes. It raises your chances of getting almost every complication of the disease.

Having trouble quitting? Ask your doctor for help.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on February 09, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: “Your Guide to Diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2;” “Prevent Diabetes Problems: Keep Your Heart and Blood Vessels Healthy;” “Prevent Diabetes Problems: Keep Your Kidneys Healthy;” “Prevent Diabetes Problems: Keep Your Feet Healthy;” “Prevent Diabetes Problems: Keep Your Mouth Healthy;” “Prevent Diabetes Problems: “Keep Your Eyes Healthy;” and “Prevent Diabetes Problems: Keep Your Diabetes under Control.”

American Diabetes Association: “Complications;” “Heart Disease;” “High Blood Pressure;” “Physical Activity is Important;” and “Exercising with Diabetes Complications.”

National Diabetes Education Program: “4 Steps to Manage Your Diabetes for Life.”

American Heart Association: “Cholesterol Abnormalities and Diabetes.”

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