Type 1 Diabetes: Living With Complications (cont.)
The most important measures you can take at home if you have one or more complications from type 1 diabetes are:
- Keep your blood sugar within a target range. Keep track of your blood sugar levels with home tests and hemoglobin A1c (A1c) tests at your doctor's office. The A1c test gives you an average of your blood sugar levels over the past 2 or 3 months. The American Diabetes Association recommends a hemoglobin A1c level of less than 7%. Talk to your doctor about what A1c level is best for you.
- Eat a diet that spreads carbohydrate throughout the day.
- Get regular exercise.
- Take your prescribed insulin either by injection or through an insulin pump.
- Do not smoke.
For more information, see the Home Treatment section of the topic Type 1 Diabetes: Living With the Disease.
Other measures to care for and protect yourself depend on which complication you have.
Call your eye specialist if you notice any changes in your vision. Vision changes may mean that diabetic retinopathy is getting worse. Early detection and treatment can help prevent vision loss.
If you have severe vision loss from diabetic retinopathy, vision aids can help. Your local or state organization for the visually impaired can help you find these aids.
For more information, see the topic Diabetic Retinopathy.
- Take your blood pressure medicines, if prescribed. Your blood pressure should be less than 130/80 mm Hg. Ask your doctor if you need to monitor your blood pressure at home.
- If diabetes has affected your kidneys, limiting your intake of protein may help you preserve kidney function. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about how much protein is best for you.
- Limit salt in your diet because it makes your body retain fluid and can increase your blood pressure.
For more information, see the topic Diabetic Nephropathy.
Heart and large blood vessel disease
Even if you don't have heart and blood vessel problems, you are at risk for them.
- Don't smoke. Smoking increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke and makes many health problems worse.
- Take your blood pressure medicine, if prescribed.
- Take your cholesterol-lowering medicine, if prescribed.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet.
- Talk to your doctor about whether you should take low-dose aspirin.
- Limit alcohol. Drink no more than 1 drink a day for women and no more than 2 drinks a day for men. Discuss with your doctor whether you should drink alcohol.
If it affects your ability to feel (peripheral neuropathy):
- Turn your water heater down, and use a bath thermometer or have someone test your bath water to make sure it is not too hot.
- Don't go barefoot. Always wear shoes, even in the house.
- Don't use an electric blanket.
- Arrange your furniture so that the walkways through your house are free of clutter.
If it affects your body's internal functioning (autonomic neuropathy):
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals that contain less fat and fiber, if you have gastroparesis or other digestive problems.
- Drink more fluids each day, if you have urinary problems or profuse sweating. This will prevent urinary tract infections and dehydration.
- Try a device for erection problems or a lubricating cream for vaginal dryness, if you have sexual problems. Talk to your doctor about medicine for erection problems (Cialis, Levitra, Viagra). For more information, see the topic Erection Problems.
- Check your blood sugar level frequently during the day and during the night sometimes, if you have hypoglycemia unawareness.
For more information, see the topic Diabetic Neuropathy.
Daily care of your feet is very important. Because diabetic neuropathy and diabetic damage to the blood vessels in your legs can lead to severe infections and deformities of your feet, seek treatment for any foot problem, no matter how minor it seems. Even a small foot injury can lead to serious complications.
For more information, see:
- Diabetes: Taking Care of Your Feet.