Diabetes (Mellitus, Type 1 and Type 2) (cont.)
When Should Someone Seek Medical Care for Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes?
If a person has diabetes and experiences any of the following, call a health-care professional:
- Experiencing diabetes symptoms, since this may mean that the person's blood sugar level is not being controlled despite treatment.
- When tested, blood sugar levels are consistently high (more than 200 mg/dL). Persistently high blood sugar levels are the root cause of all of the complications of diabetes.
- The patient's blood sugar level is often low (less than 70 mg/dL), called hypoglycemia. This may mean that the diabetes management strategy is too aggressive. It also may be a sign of infection or other stress on the body's organs, such as kidney failure, liver failure, adrenal gland failure, or the concomitant use of certain medications.
- An injury to the foot or leg, no matter how minor: Even the tiniest cut or blister can become very serious in a person with diabetes. Early diagnosis and treatment of problems with the feet and lower extremities, along with regular diabetic foot care, are critical in preserving the function of the legs and preventing amputation.
- Low-grade fever (less than 101.5 F or 38.6 C): Fever is one sign of infection. Many common infections can potentially be more dangerous for diabetic patients than for other people. Note any symptoms that may indicate where the infection is located, such as painful urination, redness or swelling of the skin, abdominal pain, chest pain, or cough.
- Nausea or vomiting but can keep liquids down.: The health-care professional may adjust medications while the patient is sick. The health-care professional will probably recommend an urgent office visit or a visit to the emergency department. Persistent nausea and vomiting can be a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a potentially life-threatening condition, as well as several other serious illnesses.
- Small sore(s) (ulcer) on the foot or leg: Any non-healing sore or ulcer on the feet or legs of someone with diabetes needs to be seen by a medical professional right away. A sore less than 1 inch across, not draining pus, and not exposing deep tissue or bone, can safely be evaluated by a health-care professional, as long as the patient does not have fever and their blood sugar levels are under control.
When you call a health-care professional, tell them that you are concerned because you or someone you know has diabetes.
- The patient will probably be referred to a nurse who will ask questions and initially recommend what to do.
- Be prepared for this conversation. Have handy by the phone a list of all medications and nutritional supplements, medical problems, allergies to medicines, and a blood sugar diary.
- The nurse may need any or all of this information to decide both the urgency of the patient's condition and how best to treat the problem.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/3/2016
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