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Diabetes: Health Care Tips

General Tips

To stay healthy when you have diabetes, here’s what to do:

  • Follow your meal plan.
  • Follow your exercise and activity routine.
  • Take your medicines as directed.
  • Test your blood glucose regularly. Test more often when you are sick.
  • Keep your blood glucose as close to normal as possible. Blood glucose should be 70 to 130 before meals and no higher than 180 after meals. A1c test should be less than 7%.
  • Keep your blood pressure near normal. Try to keep it under under 140 / 80.
  • Keep your blood fats (cholesterol and other blood fats) near normal. Recommended target for total cholesterol is under 200, LDL under 100, HDL above 40 (men) and 50 (women), and triglycerides under 150. 
  • Do not smoke.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol.
  • Lose excess weight.
  • Check your feet and skin daily.
  • Brush and floss your teeth daily.
  • See your doctor regularly for:
        • Blood tests
        • Urine tests
        • Foot exams
        • Dilated eye exam
        • Blood pressure checks
  • See your dentist twice a year.
  • Get a flu shot every year.
  • Ask your doctor about getting a pneumonia vaccine.
  • Plan ahead for safe travel.
  • Meet often with the members of your health care team.
  • Keep updating your diabetes education.

Skin Care Tips

Diabetes may lead to skin problems that range from itching to infections that are hard to control. To reduce your chances for getting skin problems, take good care of your skin every day:

  • Bathe daily with mild soap and lukewarm water.
  • Apply a small amount of moisturizing lotion while your skin is moist.
  • Avoid scratches, punctures, and other injuries.
  • Wear gloves when you do work, like gardening, that may injure your hands.
  • Use sunscreen and good sense to avoid sunburn.
  • Prevent frostbite by dressing warmly. In very cold weather, avoid staying outdoors for long periods of time.
  • Treat injuries quickly. Wash all cuts and scrapes with soap and water. Cover them with a dry, sterile bandage.
  •  Call your doctor if a cut or scrape does not heal in a day or two or for any signs of infection:
      • Redness
      • Warmth
      • Swelling
      • Throbbing pain
      • Pus

Foot Care Tips

Special foot care is necessary when you have diabetes. Poor blood flow, nerve damage, and trouble fighting infections can make foot problems very serious. You can help prevent major foot problems by a daily routine of foot care:

Check your feet daily

  • Look at the tops and bottoms of your feet. Use a mirror if necessary, or have a family member check for you.
  • Look for cuts, scratches, cracks, calluses, or blisters.
  • Look for changes in color, shape, or temperature.
  • Call your doctor if you notice injuries or other changes. Your doctor may tell you to see a foot doctor. A foot doctor is called a podiatrist (po-DYE-uh-trist).

Wash your feet daily

  • Use mild soap and lukewarm water (90 degrees to 95 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Do not soak your feet. (Soaking may cause dryness.)
  • Dry your feet well, especially between your toes.
  • Use foot powder if your feet sweat.

Take care of your toenails

  • Cut your toenails after bathing, while they are soft.
  • Cut toenails straight across, not into corners. Then smooth your nails with an emery board.
  • Do not cut your own toenails if you have a hard time seeing or your nails are too thick. Have a podiatrist trim them.

Protect your feet

  • Wear comfortable leather or canvas shoes that fit well.
  • Do not wear shoes that may cause a callus or blister.
  • Break in new shoes slowly. Wear them one or two hours at a time.
  • Do not go barefoot, even indoors.
  • Wear clean socks or stockings every day. Cotton or wool socks are best.
  • Never use sharp tools, chemicals, or foot soaks to remove corns or calluses. Have a
    podiatrist do this for you.

Keep the blood flowing well

  • Exercise daily. Do foot exercises. Exercise gives you better blood flow.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Keep your feet warm. Avoid heating pads or hot water bottles, which may burn your skin.
  • Do not wear garters or stockings with elastic tops.

Remind your doctor and diabetes educator to examine your feet! Take off your shoes and socks every time you see them.

Dental Care Tips

High blood glucose increases your risk for tooth and gum problems. Good daily care at home and regular dental checkups can prevent these problems:

  • Brush and floss your teeth daily.
  • If you have dentures, remove them and massage your gums daily.
  • See your dentist every 6 months.
  • Tell your dentist you have diabetes.
  • Tell your dentist if your dentures are too loose or too tight.

Eye Care Tips

High blood glucose can damage the blood vessels in the retina (RET-in-uh) of the eye. This problem is called retinopathy (RETih-NAW-pith-ee). Retinopathy has no symptoms in the early, most treatable stages. The only way to detect this damage is by a dilated (DYE-late-ed) eye exam. Eyedrops dilate, or open up, the pupils so the doctor can exam the retina.With diabetes, you also have a greater chance of getting glaucoma (glaw-CO-muh) and cataracts (CAT-er-ax).

To reduce your risk of eye problems or slow down the damage, follow these guidelines:

  • Get a complete dilated eye exam every year.
  • Call your diabetes doctor or eye doctor if you have any of the symptoms listed below. A medical doctor who specializes in eye care is called an ophthalmologist (OFF-thal-MOL-oh-jist).
        • Blurred or double vision
        • Narrowed field of vision
        • Seeing dark spots
        • Pressure or pain around your eyes
        • Trouble seeing in dim light
  • Get your blood pressure checked often.
  • Do not smoke.

Travel Tips

Many people with diabetes travel. Diabetes doesn’t have to stop you from going anywhere you want. For a safer, more relaxed trip, take a few extra steps and plan ahead:

  • Always carry and wear your diabetes identification (ID).
  • Keep the following items at hand. If you are traveling by plane, keep them in your carry-on luggage:
      • Medicines
      • Insulin and syringes
      • Blood testing devices
      • Fast-acting sugar to treat low blood glucose
  • Make sure all medicine is clearly labeled. Carry insulin in the original box with the prescription label.
  • Carry a hand-written note from your doctor stating that you need syringes and lancets.
  • Inform airport screeners ahead of time that you have syringes and lancet needles in your carry-on items.
  • Carry at least one extra week of supplies and a prescription for each item.
  • Stick to your regular schedule for meals and medicines, and exercise as much as possible.
  • Keep food and snacks handy. Meals may be delayed for reasons you can’t control.
  • Plan ahead for changes in meal times (especially if you will cross time zones).
  • Keep insulin away from heat and light.
  • Ask your doctor about medicine for possible vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Protect insulin and test strips for blood glucose testing from extremes of heat or
  • Plan times for testing your blood glucose.
  • Find out in advance where to get emergency care during your trip.

If You Have Questions

If you have questions, call a member of your diabetes health care team.

Revised January 2013 

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