Diabetes & Your Health

Diabetes & Your Health

Diabetes and Your Health

Diabetes can affect any part of your body. The good news is that you can prevent most of these problems by keeping your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels under control, by eating healthily, remaining physical active, collaborating with your physician to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control, and by self monitoring your blood glucose as instructed.

  • What should I do when I am sick? (click for answer)

    Be sure to continue taking your diabetes pills or insulin. Don't stop taking them even if you cannot eat. Your health care provider may even advise you to take more insulin during sickness. Test your blood glucose every four hours, and keep track of the results. Drink extra calorie-free liquids, and try to eat as you normally would. If you cannot, try to have soft foods and liquids containing the equivalent amount of carbohydrates that you usually consume. Weigh yourself every day. Losing weight without trying is a sign of high blood glucose. Check your temperature every morning and evening. A fever may be a sign of infection.

    Call your health care provider or go to an emergency room if any of the following happen to you:


    • You feel too sick to eat normally and are unable to keep down food for more than 6 hours
    • You are having severe diarrhea
    • You lose 5 pounds or more
    • Your temperature is over 101 degrees F
    • Your blood glucose is lower than 60 mg/dL or remains over 300 mg/dL.
    • You have moderate or large amounts of ketones in your urine
    • You are having trouble breathing
    • You feel sleepy or cannot think clearly

  • How does diabetes affect how I respond to a cold or flu? (click for answer)

    Being sick by itself can raise your blood glucose. Moreover, illness can prevent you from eating properly, which further affects blood glucose. In addition, diabetes can make the immune system more vulnerable to severe cases of the flu. People with diabetes who come down with the flu may become very sick and may even have to go to a hospital. You can help keep yourself from getting the flu by getting a flu shot every year. Everyone with diabetes, even pregnant women, should get an annual flu shot. The best time to get one is between October and mid-November, before the flu season begins.

  • How can diabetes affect my mood? (click for answer)

    Several studies suggest that diabetes doubles the risk of depression, although it is still unclear why. The psychological stress of having diabetes may contribute to depression, but diabetes' metabolic effect on brain function may also play a role. At the same time, people with depression may be more likely to develop diabetes.

    The risk of depression increases as more diabetes complications develop. When you are depressed, you do not function as well, physically or mentally; this makes you less likely to eat properly, exercise, and take your medication regularly. Psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both can treat depression effectively. In addition, studies show that successful treatment for depression also helps improve blood glucose control.

  • How can diabetes affect my sexual response? (click for answer)

    Many people with diabetic nerve damage have trouble having sex. For example, men can have trouble maintaining an erection and ejaculating. Women can have trouble with sexual response and vaginal lubrication. Both men and women with diabetes can get urinary tract infections and bladder problems more often than average.

  • How can I keep my mouth, gums, and teeth healthy if I have diabetes? (click for answer)

    You can help maintain your oral health by keeping your blood glucose as close to normal as possible, brushing your teeth at least twice a day, and flossing once a day. Keep any dentures clean. Get a dental cleaning and exam twice a year, and tell your dentist that you have diabetes. Call your dentist with any problems, such as gums that are red, sore, bleeding, or pulling away from the teeth; any possible tooth infection; or soreness from dentures.

  • How can diabetes affect oral health? (click for answer)

    Because of high blood glucose, people with diabetes are more likely to have problems with their teeth and gums. And like all infections, dental infections can make your blood glucose go up. Sore, swollen, and red gums that bleed when you brush your teeth is a sign of a dental problem called gingivitis. Another problem, called periodontitis, happens when your gums shrink or pull away from your teeth.

    People with diabetes can have tooth and gum problems more often if their blood glucose stays high. Also, smoking makes it more likely for you to get a bad case of gum disease, especially if you have diabetes and are age 45 or older. People with diabetes are also prone to other mouth problems, like fungal infections, poor post-surgery healing, and dry mouth.

  • How can diabetes affect the digestion? (click for answer)

    Gastroparesis, otherwise known as delayed gastric emptying, is a disorder where, due to nerve damage, the stomach takes too long to empty itself. It frequently occurs in people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
    Symptoms of gastroparesis include heartburn, nausea, vomiting of undigested food, an early feeling of fullness when eating, weight loss, abdominal bloating, erratic blood glucose levels, lack of appetite, gastroesophageal reflux, and spasms of the stomach wall.

  • What should I look for when I check my feet regularly? (click for answer)

    Look for cuts, cracks, sores, red spots, and swelling, infected toenails, splinters, blisters, and calluses on the feet each day. Call your physician if such wounds do not heal after one day. If you have corns and calluses, ask your physician or podiatrist about the best way to care for them. Wash your feet in warm, not hot, water and dry them well.

    Cut your toenails once a week or when needed. Cut toenails when they are soft from washing. Cut them to the shape of the toe and not too short. File the edges with an emery board. Rub lotion on the tops and bottoms of feet-but not between the toes-to prevent cracking and drying.

    Wear shoes that fit well. Break in new shoes slowly, by wearing them 1 to 2 hours each day for the first 1 to 2 weeks. Wear stockings or socks to avoid blisters and sores. Wear clean, lightly padded socks that fit well; seamless socks are best. Always wear shoes or slippers, because when you are barefoot it is easy to step on something and hurt your feet. Protect your feet from extreme heat and cold. When sitting, keep the blood flowing to your lower limbs by propping your feet up and moving your toes and ankles for a few minutes at a time. Avoid smoking, which reduces blood flow to the feet. Keep your blood glucose (blood sugar), blood pressure, and cholesterol under control by eating healthy foods, staying active, and taking your diabetes medicines.

  • Why is it especially important to take care of my feet if I have diabetes? (click for answer)

    Nerve damage, circulation problems, and infections can cause serious foot problems for people with diabetes. Sometimes nerve damage can deform or misshape your feet, causing pressure points that can turn into blisters, sores, or ulcers. Poor circulation can make these injuries slow to heal. Sometimes this can lead to amputation of a toe, foot, or leg.

  • How can diabetes affect nerve endings? (click for answer)

    Having high blood glucose for many years can damage the blood vessels that bring oxygen to some nerves, as well as the nerve coverings. Damaged nerves may stop sending messages, or send messages too slowly or at the wrong times. Numbness, pain, and weakness in the hands, arms, feet and legs may develop. Problems may also occur in various organs, including the digestive tract, heart and sex organs. Diabetic neuropathy is the medical term for damage to the nervous system from diabetes. The most common type is peripheral neuropathy, which affects the arms and legs.

    An estimated 50% of those with diabetes have some form of neuropathy, but not all with neuropathy have symptoms. People with diabetes can develop nerve problems at any time, but the longer a person has diabetes, the greater the risk. The highest rates of neuropathy are among people who have had the disease for at least 25 years.

    Diabetic neuropathy also appears to be more common in people who have had problems controlling their blood glucose levels, in those with high levels of blood fat and blood pressure, in overweight people, and in people over the age of 40.

  • How can I keep my kidneys healthy if I have diabetes? (click for answer)

    The steps you take to keep your kidneys healthy help the rest of your body too. Talk to your health care provider to find out the steps that are right for you.

    If you are at risk for kidney disease, the most important steps you can take to keep your kidneys healthy are:

    ·         Get your blood and urine checked for kidney disease.

    ·         Manage your diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.          

    Tips to help keep your kidneys healthy:          

    ·         Keep your blood pressure at the target set by your health care provider. For most people, the blood pressure target is less than 140/90 mm Hg. This can delay or prevent kidney failure.

    ·         If you have diabetes, control your blood glucose level.

    ·         Keep your cholesterol levels in the target range.

    ·         Take medicines the way your provider tells you to. (Important! Certain blood pressure medicines called ACE inhibitors and ARBs may protect your kidneys. Ask your health care provider for more information.)

    ·         Cut back on salt. Aim for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium each day.

    ·         Choose foods that are healthy for your heart: fresh fruits, fresh or frozen vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods.

    ·         Limit your alcohol intake.

    ·         Be more physically active.

    ·         Lose weight if you are overweight.

    ·         If you smoke, take steps to quit. Cigarette smoking can make kidney damage worse.

  • How can diabetes affect the kidneys? (click for answer)

    In diabetic kidney disease, also called diabetic nephropathy, cells and blood vessels in the kidneys are damaged, affecting the organs' ability to filter out waste. Waste builds up in your blood instead of being excreted. In some cases this can lead to kidney failure. When the kidneys fail, a person has to have his or her blood filtered through a machine (a treatment called dialysis) several times a week, or has to get a kidney transplant.

  • How can I keep my eyes healthy if I have diabetes? (click for answer)

    There is a great deal that you can do to prevent eye problems. A recent study shows that keeping your blood glucose level closer to normal can prevent or delay the onset of diabetic eye disease. Keeping your blood pressure under control is also important. Finding and treating eye problems early can help save your vision.

    It is best to have an eye physician give you a dilated eye exam at least once a year. The physician will use eye drops to enlarge (dilate) your pupils to examine the backs of your eyes. Your eyes will be checked for signs of cataracts or glaucoma, problems that people with diabetes are more likely to get.

    Because diabetic eye disease may develop without symptoms, regular eye exams are important for finding problems early. Some people may notice signs of vision changes. If you are having trouble reading, if your vision is blurred, or if you are seeing rings around lights, dark spots or flashing lights, you may have eye problems. Be sure to tell your health care team or eye physician about any eye problems you may have.

  • How can diabetes affect the eyes? (click for answer)

    In diabetic eye disease, high blood glucose and high blood pressure cause small blood vessels to swell and leak liquid into the retina of the eye which can then blur your vision and sometimes result in blindness. People with diabetes are also more likely to develop cataracts - a clouding of the eye's lens, and glaucoma - optic nerve damage. Laser surgery can often help these conditions.

  • How can I be "heart healthy" and avoid cardiovascular disease if I have diabetes? (click for answer)

    To protect your heart and blood vessels, be sure to eat right, get physical activity, don't smoke, and maintain healthy blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Choose a healthy diet, low in salt. Work with a dietitian to plan healthy meals.  If you are overweight, talk with your physician or dietitian about how you can safely lose weight. Ask about a physical activity or exercise program. Quit smoking if you currently do. Get a hemoglobin A1C test at least twice a year to determine what your average blood glucose level was for the past 2 to 3 months. Get your blood pressure checked at every physician's visit, and get your cholesterol checked at least once a year. Take medications if prescribed by your physician.

  • How are cholesterol, triglyceride, weight, and blood pressure problems related to diabetes? (click for answer)

    People with type 2 diabetes have high rates of cholesterol and triglyceride abnormalities, obesity, and high blood pressure, all of which are major contributors to higher rates of cardiovascular disease. Many people with diabetes have several of these conditions at the same time. This combination of problems is often called metabolic syndrome (formerly known as Syndrome X).

    The metabolic syndrome is often defined as the presence of any three of the following conditions: 1) excess weight around the waist; 2) high levels of triglycerides; 3) low levels of HDL, or "good," cholesterol; 4) high blood pressure; and 5) high fasting blood glucose levels. If you have one or more of these conditions, you are at an increased risk for having one or more of the others.

  • How can diabetes affect cardiovascular health? (click for answer)

    Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of early death among people with diabetes. Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely than people without diabetes to have heart disease or experience a stroke. At least 65% of people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke. About 70% of people with diabetes also have high blood pressure.