Six Ways to Minimise Diabetes Complications
When you have been newly diagnosed with diabetes there is a lot of information to take in, including the potential effects diabetes could have on other areas of your health. The truth is, diabetes can affect and inhibit a range of different processes and functions within the body, leading to complications that, if not treated, can make living with diabetes much harder than it otherwise could be.
The good news is that there are plenty of steps you can take to possibly minimise the risk of complications occurring, and to reduce their severity if and when they do occur. Amcal Senior Pharmacist James Nevile pinpoints six areas you need to start paying more attention to now to guard against future problems.
Tip #1: Be kind to your skin
- Problem: Diabetes can cause nerve damage and damage to micro blood vessels, which in turn inhibits your body’s ability to heal. This means that wounds can quickly become painful and unpleasant.
- Prevention and management: James says: “Skin that’s dry and flaky is more prone to cracking and itching, which makes infection more likely. Make sure that you use a soap-free face and body wash and implement a good moisturising routine to minimise the risk of infection.”
James also recommends paying extra attention to your feet for the same reason: “Just a little blister can turn into a big issue. Regular podiatrist appointments can help you keep your feet in good condition and avoid future problems.”
Tip #2: Keep an eye on your vision
- Problem: High blood sugar increases the risk of developing eye problems like glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. “Many people don’t realise that diabetes can potentially damage your vision and as a result don’t pay as much attention to it as they should,” explains James.
- Prevention and management: “I recommend going to see your optometrist once a year, but at least once every two years, to make sure you identify any problems at the earliest possible stage.”
Tip #3: Take care of your teeth and gums
- Problem: Diabetes can cause gum and bone tissue to become weaker and less resistant to infection, making you a prime candidate for gum disease. Left untreated, this can worsen into periodontal disease and loss of teeth.
- Prevention and management: Research has shown that people living with diabetes are at no greater risk of developing periodontal disease than the general population – provided they manage their condition effectively. James says a good oral healthcare routine is key: “Brush for two minutes, twice daily, and floss to remove those tiny particles of food that get stuck between the teeth and lead to the formation of plaque.”
Tip #4: Monitor your sleep
- Problem: Sleep apnoea occurs when the airway becomes partially or completely obstructed while you are sleeping. This causes you to wake up but fall back to sleep immediately. It can make your diabetes harder to control, raising blood sugar levels and affecting your daytime eating habits. It has also been linked to cardiovascular disease and weight management issues.
- Prevention and management: James says: “Sometimes people don’t notice it’s a problem – their partner might tell them that they snore but they may not realise that it’s something more serious. If this sounds like you, see your GP or specialist. Being able to sleep better will have a positive effect not just on your diabetes but your quality of life overall.”
Tip #5: Take care of your heart
- Problem: People living with diabetes are at higher risk of developing heart disease and stroke for a range of reasons, including the damage high blood glucose can cause to nerves and blood cells.
- Prevention and management: Eating a heart-healthy diet is key, as is maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking. James adds: “It’s also important to see your GP regularly to check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.”
Tip #6: Be vigilant against kidney disease
- Problem: One of the most serious complications of diabetes is kidney disease, which occurs when the small blood vessels in your kidneys are damaged and can no longer clean your blood properly.
- Prevention and management: “Kidney disease is often only caught way down the track as it is often a silent complication,” James says. “If caught earlier, however, it’s much easier to treat, so be aware of the warning signs such as swollen ankles, weight gain and difficulty urinating.”
Be proactive about your health
Of course, with such a complex condition as diabetes, this is not a definitive list, as James explains: “Unfortunately diabetes increases your risk factor for a number of conditions, some of which we haven’t touched upon here, such as fatty liver disease, depression, cognitive dysfunction and some studies have even shown a link to certain types of cancer1. But it’s important not to feel overwhelmed by this list and remember that it’s within your power to minimise the possibility of developing many of these conditions by being proactive and managing your condition effectively.
“Make sure you’re taking your medications correctly, eating well and exercising regularly. It also helps to build and get to know a team of experts that understand and will help you control your diabetes – from your local GP and pharmacist through to your podiatrist and optometrist.”
James Nevile is a registered pharmacist with almost twenty years’ experience in pharmacy who currently works as a Senior Pharmacist at Amcal and National Professional Services Manager at Sigma Pharmaceuticals.
James has been engaged by Sanofi to provide regular expert commentary for Diabetes-Care. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the view of Sanofi.