Your Diabetes Care Record
It’s a good idea to keep record of your health information using a diabetes care record or tracker. It will serve as a reference for all your diabetes care. The table below has sections for you to record your weight, blood pressure, and other key exam and test results. Print this table and fill in your results at each visit with your diabetes care team so you and your team will know exactly what’s working for you.
Identify problems associated with diabetes early on
Some of the lab tests you take during a visit with your diabetes care team may be able to tell you if your diabetes has caused any health problems. Many of the signs of damage from diabetes don’t show up for several years. Even then, the signs may be so small that you don’t notice them. You and your diabetes care team can reduce your risk of having these problems by carefully managing your diabetes and keeping your blood sugar in the recommended range.
Healthy lifestyle habits are important for everyone. And living with diabetes, you may find it especially helpful. Healthy eating, being active, taking your medicine, and tracking your progress are the cornerstones of diabetes care, and they are good for your health in general.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has listed some common problems. Below, you can find descriptions of each and ways to reduce your risk.
Vascular disease can cause damage to the different blood vessels in your body. Oxygen, glucose, nutrients, and other substances travel through our blood vessels to reach the different parts of the body, and a blockage leads to problems.
In PAD, or peripheral arterial disease, blocked arteries interrupt blood flow to the legs and can cause these sensations in the legs and feet:
People with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to have vascular disease than people without diabetes. The ADA suggests protecting against vascular disease by following these steps:
- Quit smoking
- Lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise good cholesterol (HDL)
- Lower high blood pressure
- Increase physical activity
- Ask your health care provider if taking aspirin will help
Nerve damage (neuropathy)
The body’s nerves are like wires that send signals to and from your brain. Over time, high blood sugar can damage the nerves in your body. This damage is called neuropathy. Many nerves can be affected, so symptoms vary. But some symptoms may include:
- Burning and numbness in the hands or feet
- Problems with getting or keeping an erection
- Muscle weakness
Check with your diabetes care team if you have any symptoms like these.
The ADA suggests protecting against neuropathy with good diabetes management.
Eye problems (retinopathy)
High blood sugar can damage the tiny vessels that bring blood to your eyes, which can cause a variety of problems. Without proper care, these eye problems may lead to loss of vision.
Steps you can take to help protect your eyes:
- Manage your blood sugar
- Manage your blood pressure
- Get a dilated eye exam by an eye care specialist at least once a year
- Call your diabetes care team right away if you notice any sudden changes in your sight, such as blurry vision or little specks floating before your eyes
Kidney damage (nephropathy)
Diabetes raises the risk of damage to the kidneys. Your kidneys filter waste out of your blood. Over time, high blood sugar can damage the small blood vessels of the kidneys.
Here’s what you can do to care for your kidneys:
- Keep your blood sugar levels within the range your diabetes care team recommends
- Have a urine test for protein each year. This test is called a urinary albumin test. It can help find kidney damage in its early stages, before it gets worse
- Have a blood test for serum creatinine at least once a year. This test can also find kidney damage in its early stages
- Manage your blood pressure. High blood pressure can make your kidneys work extra hard
- Avoid smoking. Smoking damages blood vessels
Too much sugar in your blood can make your white blood cells, which fight infection, not work as well. This makes infections a problem for people with diabetes.
Teeth and gum problems
Diabetes can increase the amount of sugar in your saliva. Over time, this can cause tooth decay and gum infections. But you can help prevent these problems by taking good care of your teeth and gums.
How to protect your teeth and gums:
- Manage your blood sugar levels by following your diabetes care plan
- See your dentist at least twice a year for checkups and cleanings. Be sure to tell your dentist that you have diabetes
- Call your dentist if you have red, bleeding, or tender gums. These may be early signs of gum disease
- Brush your teeth twice a day and floss once a day
- Stop smoking
High blood sugar can also damage the nerves in your feet. You might not feel pain, heat, or cold if this happens. A sore or cut may get worse and become infected without your knowing it. Diabetes may also reduce bloodflow to your feet. And when your feet don’t get enough blood, infections don’t heal well.
Pay special attention to your feet:
- Wear shoes that cover your entire foot and fit well. Try not to go barefoot
- Wear clean socks or stockings made of a moisture-wicking material that are not too tight
- Check your feet for dry skin, cracks, cuts, and redness every day
- Keep your feet clean with warm, soapy water, but don’t soak your feet
- After washing, moisturize your feet with lotion to keep the skin healthy
- Use a nail file to file your toenails down. Avoid using clippers because you could cut yourself. If you do get a cut or scratch, care for it right away
- If you have corns, calluses, or ingrown toenails, see a podiatrist (foot doctor)
- Have a foot exam once a year