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Type 2 Diabetes: Living With Complications (cont.)

Home Treatment

You can live a full life even with complications from type 2 diabetes. Eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise, taking diabetes medicine, and possibly taking insulin to keep your blood sugar levels within your target range will help you feel better and have control of your life. If you need help with these skills, see the topic Type 2 Diabetes: Living With the Disease.

Early treatment of complications can help save your vision, slow the rate of kidney failure, and reduce the risk of amputation. Keep all appointments with your doctor, specialists, and other health professionals. The exams and tests done during these visits can detect early signs of complications and monitor the progression of existing complications.

Take the following measures at home to help control complications.

Eye disease (diabetic retinopathy)

  • Call your ophthalmologist or optometrist if you notice any changes in your vision. Early detection and treatment of any changes can help prevent vision loss.
  • Avoid heavy lifting if you have advanced diabetic eye disease (proliferative retinopathy).
  • Call your ophthalmologist if you have retinopathy and become pregnant. Retinopathy can become worse rapidly during pregnancy.
  • If you have severe vision loss from diabetic retinopathy, vision aids can help you do as much of your diabetes care as possible. These include home glucose monitors with large-print displays and talking glucose monitors. Your local or state organization for the visually impaired can help you find vision aids that are right for you.

For more help, see the topic Diabetic Retinopathy.

Heart and large blood vessel disease (macrovascular disease)

  • Don't smoke. Smoking increases your risk for heart attack.
  • Talk to your doctor about whether you should take low-dose aspirin. Daily low-dose aspirin (81 milligrams) may help prevent heart problems if you are at risk for heart attack or stroke.
  • Take your blood pressure medicine as prescribed.
  • Follow a diet that is low in saturated fat and trans fat, get plenty of exercise, and lose weight (if needed) to control your cholesterol.
  • Take your cholesterol medicine as prescribed.

Nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy)

If it affects your ability to feel (peripheral neuropathy):

  • Turn down the temperature of your hot-water heater and use a bath thermometer or have someone test your bathwater to see whether it is too hot.
  • Do not go barefoot, even in the house.
  • Do not use an electric blanket.
  • To prevent falls, arrange your furniture so that walkways are free of clutter.
  • To avoid burning your hands, use pot holders when you cook.

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 or medicines such as sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), or tadalafil (Cialis) for erection problems or a lubricating cream for vaginal dryness if you have sexual problems. Check with your doctor to find out whether you can take these medicines.
  • Check your blood sugar level more often if you have hypoglycemia unawareness, especially before driving.

If it affects one nerve (focal neuropathy):

  • Wear a joint splint, if your doctor advises this.
  • Take breaks when you are doing activities that require repetitive movements.
  • Make sure your work environment provides appropriate support.

For more help, see the topic Diabetic Neuropathy.

Kidney disease (diabetic nephropathy)

  • Take your blood pressure medicines, if prescribed. Your blood pressure should be 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or lower.
  • Talk to your doctor or a dietitian about how much protein is best for you. Limiting the amount of protein you eat may help your kidneys stay healthier longer.
  • Limit salt in your diet, because it makes your body retain fluid and can increase your blood pressure.
  • Avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), except aspirin (a single low-dose aspirin daily is fine). NSAIDs include ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) and naproxen (such as Aleve). These medicines can harm your kidneys.

For more help, see the topic Diabetic Nephropathy.

Foot problems

Foot care is important for people who have diabetes. You need to inspect your feet every day and protect them from injury. If you have poor eyesight, have someone else check your feet.

To protect your feet:

  • Avoid exercise that could injure your feet. Walking is fine, but jogging may be too rough.
  • Make sure that bathwater is not too hot.
  • Check your shoes for any loose objects or rough edges before you put them on.
  • Get early treatment for any foot problem, even a minor one. Call your doctor at the first sign of a problem with your feet. Blisters, small cuts, corns, calluses, or other problems that may seem minor can quickly become more serious.

For more information on protecting your feet, see:

Click here to view an Actionset.Diabetes: Taking care of your feet.
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