Planning for a Healthy Future

By Canadian Diabetes Care Guide posted in Staying On Target
Updated

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Taking charge of your life and taking care of yourself will help you avoid many diabetes-related problems. Remember, you are not alone – you have your diabetes team to support you.

Take good care of your eyes

Retinopathy does not always show symptoms, therefore, have regular eye exams. If caught early, treatment can stop the damage.

High blood glucose levels do not cause cataracts, but they can worsen them. High blood glucose over weeks or months can cause blurred vision which should go away when your blood glucose comes back into safe range. If it doesn’t, see your eye doctor. Diabetes can cause blindness, especially if blood glucose stays at a high level for many years.

How to protect your vision

  • If you have type 2 diabetes have an eye examination when you are first diagnosed (tell your eye doctor you have diabetes). After your preliminary assessment you should have a diabetes eye check every one to two years.
  • Have your blood pressure checked frequently – blood pressure higher than 130/80 increases the risk of eye damage.
  • Keep your blood glucose and lipid levels in a healthy range.
  • If you smoke – speak to your doctor or pharmacist about a plan to help you quit.
  • If you have any changes in your vision, tell your doctor immediately. For example, changes could be seeing rings around lights, dark spots or flashing lights.

TIP: Your sight is precious so be alert for any changes or problems and don’t delay getting help.

Take good care of your skin

Dry skin is common in people with type 2 diabetes. Maintaining healthy glucose levels will reduce your risks associated with dry skin.

How to protect your skin

  • Keep your blood glucose and blood pressure as close to normal as possible.
  • Use diabetes friendly skin care products. Ask your pharmacist or diabetes team for suggestions.
  • Eat well-balanced meals and limit foods high in unhealthy fats.
  • If you smoke talk to your diabetes team about ways to help you stop.

Take good care of your feet

People with diabetes have to take very special care of their feet because nerve damage and reduced blood flow can cause less feeling than normal and so many foot problems may not be noticed right away. With your own daily care and common sense you can identify many of these small problems before they become serious infections that may be very difficult to heal if left untreated. All serious problems should be treated by a podiatrist or chiropodist. These are doctors who specialize in the care and health of the feet. Shoes are breeding grounds for infections because bacteria is attracted to dark, warm and moist environments.

How to protect your feet

  • Wash your feet every day, always dry your feet well and moisturize except between the toes. Avoid temperature extremes and always test the water temperature with your hand.
  • Make sure your shoes and socks fit well and are not too tight and your socks are seam free.
  • Inspect your shoes regularly for foreign objects and rough or torn areas. Never go barefoot.
  • If your feet are cold at bedtime wear warm socks and avoid using heating pads or hot water bottles.
  • Cut your toenails only if they are still soft from bathing. A podiatrist, chiropodist or foot care nurse does this best.
  • Check your feet daily, use a good light and a mirror to see the bottoms of your feet. Look carefully for open sores, cuts, calluses, blisters and corns. Always check between your toes. If you notice any problems call your podiatrist.
  • Avoid ‘bathroom surgery’ – let your podiatrist look after corns and calluses.
  • Have your doctor, nurse practitioner or diabetes nurse check your feet at every visit. Always have the sensation in your feet checked each year.
  • Do not use chemical agents to remove corns or calluses.
  • Maintain a healthy weight – it’s easier on your feet.
  • If you smoke your risk for foot problems is higher.
  • Make physical activity a part of your day as it also helps to improve your circulation.

Take good care of your kidneys

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Uncontrolled diabetes can cause kidney disease (nephropathy). Bladder and kidney infections can damage your kidneys. Watch for cloudy, bloody or foul smelling urine, pain during urination or frequent and urgent trips to the washroom. If you suspect an infection, see your doctor. If you smoke your risk for kidney disease is greater.

How to protect your kidneys

  • Keep your blood glucose and blood pressure as close to the targets as possible.
  • Have your kidney function checked when you are diagnosed, then once a year.
  • Eat well-balanced meals and limit foods high in unhealthy fats.

Take good care of your teeth & gums

Diabetes can put you at a higher risk for gum disease and serious infections can raise blood glucose levels. Gum disease such as gingivitis (characterized by inflamed and bleeding gums), can lead to other more serious gum disorders and tooth loss. A feeling of dry mouth is another complaint and may also lead to increased dental decay or fungus infections such as thrush.

How to protect your teeth and gums

  • Brush after every meal and before you go to bed.
  • Floss between your teeth at least once a day.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Make regular visits to your dentist and let him or her know you have diabetes.

Brushing

Select a soft bristle toothbrush and make sure that you replace it regularly, about every three months or if you have a cold. Be gentle when you brush and let the bristles do the work for you. Apply a dab of toothpaste to your brush and place your brush at an angle along your gum line. Use a circular up and down massaging motion on your teeth not forgetting the inside surfaces and the chewing surface of each tooth. Use the tip of your brush to brush behind your top and bottom front teeth. Remember to brush your tongue while you’re at it. Try to brush after every meal.

Flossing

After you have brushed your teeth pull about 40 cm (20”) of floss from the spool and wrap the ends firmly around your middle fingers.

Gently slide the tight section of floss between each of your teeth being careful not to snap it onto the gum. Move floss away from the gum and gently rub the floss up and down against the side of each tooth. Use a fresh section of floss between each tooth. Don’t forget to floss behind the last tooth or any other tooth where there is no other tooth touching it. Be gentle so as not to damage your gums and floss at least once a day, preferably before bed.

Take good care of your heart & blood vessels

When you have diabetes, you may not have the usual signs of a heart attack like chest pain or pressure. Symptoms could be extreme tiredness, feeling breathless, even sweating. Talk to your diabetes educator to learn more.

How to take care of your blood vessels

  • Check your blood glucose and blood pressure often. Normal
    blood pressure should be around 130/80.
  • Work with your physician or nurse practitioner to keep your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels in a healthy range.
  • Eat well-balanced meals and limit foods high in unhealthy fats.
  • If you are on medication for blood pressure don’t miss a dose.
  • Watch your salt intake.
  • Watch your alcohol intake.
  • If you smoke, stop. Your risk for heart and blood vessel disease is greater. Talk to your diabetes team about ways to help you stop, your heart will thank you.
  • Make physical activity a part of your day.
  • Work towards and keep a healthy weight. Losing five to 10 percent of your body weight can make a difference.

Take good care of your sex life

Aging, having diabetes for longer, elevated blood glucose, elevated blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and smoking all increase the risk of sexual dysfunction.

Women with diabetes can experience vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina) and yeast infections. Both have a negative influence on sex drive. Men can commonly encounter erectile dysfunction (ED). There are a number of medications to help with these problems. Speak to your doctor, diabetes educator or pharmacist.

How to protect your sex life

  • Keep your blood glucose and blood pressure as close to the targets as possible.
  • Eat well-balanced meals and limit foods high in unhealthy fats.
  • Smoking increase risk of erectile dysfunction. Talk to your diabetes team about ways to help you stop smoking.
About the Author

The Canadian Diabetes Care Guide's articles are written by Diabetes Professionals for people with diabetes. We provide information about diabetes, diabetes health care providers, complications associated with uncontrolled diabetes and tools to manage their condition. Our mission is to help people with diabetes stay healthy and successfully manage their diabetes.