Reducing Risks Involved With Type 1 Diabetes | Cornerstones4Care®

Reducing the Risk of Long-term Problems

Keeping an eye on blood sugar is a big part of diabetes care. Why? Because high blood sugar, over time, can lead to some serious problems.

If you have type 1 diabetes, or care for someone who does, it's important to keep blood sugar as close to the target range as possible. The best way to do this is by following the diabetes care plan created by the diabetes care team.

If it's not controlled, high blood sugar can affect many different parts of the body.

Feet

There are 2 ways hyperglycemia due to type 1 diabetes can hurt feet:

  • By damaging nerves in the feet. This can prevent someone from feeling pain, heat, or cold. So, if a sore or cut develops, it may not be felt, in which case it might not be treated. As a result, it can get worse and become infected  
  • By causing peripheral vascular disease that reduces blood flow to the feet. Infections may not heal if feet don't get enough blood  

People with type 1 diabetes can help protect their feet with these care tips:

  • Get a complete foot exam each year—more often if you have foot problems  
  • Wash feet every day. Use warm water, and dry them well 
  • Do not go barefoot, even indoors 
  • Make sure shoes and socks fit well
  • Check feet every day, looking for cuts, bruises, or swelling  
  • Take care of toenails. Ask the diabetes care team how
  • If feet are injured in any way, call the diabetes care team
  • At each medical visit make sure that feet are checked. As a reminder, remember to take off socks and shoes before the examination  

Eyes (Retinopathy)

Small blood vessels run through the retina of the eye. High blood sugar can damage these vessels, leading to a number of eye problems over time, including decreased vision. Eye problems, like many other problems of diabetes, don't have to happen.  

Taking these steps may help to protect the eyes:

  • Keeping blood sugar within the target range set by the diabetes care team 
  • Keeping blood pressure within the target range set by the diabetes care team 
  • Once a year, getting an eye exam where the eye doctor widens (dilates) the pupils to look for problems inside of the eye 
  • If you, or the person you care for, notice blurry vision or little specks floating before your (or their) eyes, call the diabetes care team right away 

Kidneys (Nephropathy)

The kidneys do an important job. They filter waste products out of the blood. Diabetes can raise the risk of kidney disease. When it is not treated, over time, high blood sugar can damage the small blood vessels in the kidneys, forcing the kidneys to work too hard to filter blood. After many years, the extra work can make the kidneys fail.  

If you have type 1 diabetes, or are a care partner for someone who does, there are tests the doctor will request at least once-a-year to make sure there is no damage:

  • Urinary albumin test: Checks the level of this protein in the urine—damaged kidneys can’t filter protein out of the bloodstream the way they’re supposed to. If there is kidney damage, this test may be able to catch it while it’s still in its early stages
  • Serum creatinine test: A blood test that can find kidney damage in its early stages. The level of creatinine in the blood rises if kidney disease progresses 

And here are some things to do to help prevent kidney problems: 

  • Keep blood sugar as close as possible to target
  • Keep blood pressure within the target range. High blood pressure can make the kidneys work harder than normal 
  • Quit smoking. Smoking raises the risk of damage to small blood vessels 

Nerves (Neuropathy)

Although diabetes doesn't usually damage the brain and spinal cord, it can cause problems with the rest of the nerves in the body (neuropathy).  It is not completely clear why this happens.  But people who have had diabetes for a long time are more likely to have some nerve damage.   

Some of the symptoms of nerve damage may include:

  • Pain in hands and feet 
  • Trouble digesting food 
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Lack of strength 
  • Sexual problems 
  • Loss of feeling 
  • Muscle weakness 

These symptoms may come and go, and may feel worse at certain times. But they can also be caused by other health problems, so be sure to talk with the diabetes care team if you, or the person you care for with type 1 diabetes, are having any of them.

Some ways to help reduce the risk of nerve damage are:

  • Keep blood sugar as close as possible to target
  • Avoid alcohol
  • If you, or the person you care for, haven't done so already, stop smoking
  • Be physically active

Teeth and Gums

Diabetes can cause tooth decay and gum infections. That's because high blood sugar can add more sugar to saliva, which can help harmful bacteria to grow.  

Here are some ways to help prevent these problems:

  • Get a dental checkup and cleaning at least twice a year. The dentist should know that you, or the person you care for, have diabetes 
  • If gums are red, bleeding, or tender and it lasts more than a few days, call the dentist. This may be a sign of gum disease 
  • Floss teeth every day and brush them at least twice a day 

Are You at Risk?

People with type 1 diabetes tend to be at higher risk for certain health conditions. From arthritis, to depression, to celiac disease, learn the warning signs and what to do about them.

Have You Joined Yet?

You’re on Cornerstones4Care.com, which is a great start! But did you know that there’s a lot more to the type 1 diabetes support program than just the website? From helpful emails to useful diabetes management tools, membership has its advantages.