Managing Diabetes, Preventing Complications
Early Signs of and Risk Factors for Diabetes
People who have close family members with diabetes and people who are overweight have a greater chance of developing diabetes. Also, the risk of diabetes is increased in some ethnic groups, including African-Americans, Latino-Americans and Native Americans. Other factors that may increase the risk of diabetes include high blood pressure and hyperlipidemia (elevated cholesterol).
In diabetes, blood sugar levels are too high. Symptoms of high blood sugar include increased thirst and urination, blurred vision, fatigue and weight loss. In some people, elevated blood sugar may lead to recurrent infections such as urinary tract infection, vaginal yeast infection or skin infections. However, many people with diabetes may not have symptoms for many years. For that reason, it is recommended that all adults age 45 and older be tested for diabetes every three years. People with diabetes are at risk for complications that may affect the eyes, kidneys, nerves and circulatory system. Managing diabetes requires doctors and patients to establish therapy goals together; these include targeting blood sugar range, weight management and dietary and lifestyle changes.
Diabetic Foot Care
A common and problematic complication of diabetes is foot ulcers, which can generally be prevented through self-examination and proper foot care. When left untreated, however, foot ulcers can lead to infection, gangrene and lower limb amputation. Most often, the culprit is minor foot trauma and wound-healing failure. Diabetes-related amputation accounts for 51 percent of all amputations in the U.S.
Because of poor circulation and nerve damage to the feet, people with diabetes are more likely to develop infections even from a minor foot injury. For this reason, people with diabetes should treat their feet with special care. By following some simple foot care tips, people with diabetes can dramatically reduce their risk of amputation and lead healthy, active lives. Follow these daily steps to prevent foot ulcers:
- Check your feet for cuts, sores, blisters or areas of irritation. If you have concerns, see your podiatrist or internist.
- Wash and dry your feet, particularly between your toes.
- Protect your feet from extreme hot and cold temperatures.
- Avoid walking barefoot.
When your toenails need trimming:
- Trim your nails straight across, only if you can see well.
- If you cannot see well or if your toenails are thick or yellowed, have a podiatrist trim them.
- Do not cut into the corners of your toes.
- Do not cut corns or calluses.
When you visit your doctor, ask him or her to:
- Look at your bare feet at each visit.
- Check your feet for sense of feeling and your pulse at least once a year.
- Show you how to take care of your feet.
Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye problems that people with diabetes may face as a complication of the disease. All can cause severe vision loss or even blindness. The most common form of diabetic eye disease is diabetic retinopathy, in which damage to tiny blood vessels, a result of high blood sugar, can lead to blindness. Nearly half of people with diabetes will develop some degree of this disease during their lifetime.
If you have diabetes, have your eyes examined at least once a year. Your eyes should be dilated during the exam so that your ophthalmologist can see more clearly the insides of the eye to detect signs of the disease. Fortunately, diabetic eye disease can be treated. Your ophthalmologist may suggest laser eye surgery, which has been proven to reduce the risk of severe vision loss.