By BitMED Provider: Traci French MD

Diabetes is a disease noted by elevated blood sugar which affects almost 10% of the US population according to the CDC (2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report). There are two major types of diabetes. About 5% of patients have type I diabetes, which occurs when your body completely stops making insulin, a hormone which regulates blood sugar levels. The majority of diabetics have type II diabetes, which is caused by insufficient insulin production. Risk factors for diabetes include age, obesity, and belonging to certain ethnic groups.

Consequences of uncontrolled diabetes include blindness, infertility and birth defects, poorly healing wounds, heart disease, stroke and depression as well as many other conditions. Many of these outcomes can be avoided by following your doctor’s treatment regimen and performing routine self-care. 

Diabetic diet: dietary change is a cornerstone in the prevention and management of diabetes. Current guidelines recommend 150 minutes of exercise weekly along with behavioral modification. Your doctor will be happy to refer you to exercise and nutritional specialists who can tailor an individualized plan that meets your needs and preferences. A weight loss goal of 7-10% of your current body weight can delay the onset of diabetes in high-risk individuals and decrease the risk of consequences in patients diagnosed with diabetes.

Vision care: Yearly eye exams are recommended to monitor and limit the damage caused by elevated blood glucose on your eyes with more frequent visits recommended for patients with more severe disease.

Dental care: More frequent dental visits are recommended for diabetics in order to prevent tooth loss and gum disease.

Immunizations: Diabetes can weaken the immune system and increase your chances of catching diseases such as influenza and pneumonia. It is important to get a yearly flu shot and stay up to date on your pneumonia vaccine. Discuss getting a shingles shot with your doctor in order to prevent the debilitating skin rash and chronic nerve pain caused by the shingles virus.

Foot care: Your feet are your primary form of transportation and require some TLC. Avoid walking barefoot and check your feet daily for cuts, scrapes, calluses or other signs of wear and tear. This is a great excuse for a foot massage with healing lotion and be sure to contact your medical provider for further evaluation if you develop a wound or abnormal sensation in your feet.

Last but not least, follow up with your doctor on a regular basis to monitor your weight, blood sugar and blood pressure. Lifestyle changes are the primary treatment for diabetes along with the proper medical regimen. You have the power to lead a happy, healthy and full life when you and your care team develop a safe and effective disease management regimen.