Long term complications of diabetes
Diabetic complications - long term
Take Control of Your Diabetes
Keeping your blood sugar in a healthy range reduces all of the complications from diabetes.
It is important to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in a healthy range.
You should learn these basic steps for managing diabetes and staying as healthy as possible. Steps may include:
- A healthy diet
- Physical activity
You may need to check your blood sugar daily or more often. Your health care provider will also help you by ordering blood tests and other tests. All these may help you keep complications of diabetes away.
If you need to check your blood sugar level at home.
- You may use a device called a glucose meter to test your blood sugar. Your provider will let you know if you need to check it every day and how many times each day.
- You may use a device called a glucose sensor that attaches to your body. Your provider will tell you if this is a better choice for you.
- Your provider will also tell you what blood sugar numbers you are trying to achieve. This is called managing your blood sugar. These goals will be set for different times during the day.
To prevent heart disease and stroke, you may be asked to take medicine and change your diet and activity:
- Your provider may ask you to take a medicine called an ACE inhibitor or a different medicine called an ARB, for high blood pressure or kidney problems.
- Your provider may ask you to take a medicine called a statin to keep your cholesterol down.
- Your provider may ask you to take aspirin to prevent heart attacks. Ask your provider if aspirin is right for you.
- Regular exercise is good for people with diabetes. Talk to your provider first about what exercises are best for you and how much exercise you should do every day.
- Do not smoke. Smoking makes diabetes complications worse. If you do smoke, work with your provider to find a way to quit.
To keep your feet healthy, you should:
- Check and care for your feet every day. Keep your skin well moisturized.
- Get a foot exam by your provider at least every 6 to 12 months and learn whether you have nerve damage.
- Make sure you are wearing the right kinds of socks and shoes.
A nurse or dietitian will teach you about good food choices to lower your blood sugar and stay healthy. Make sure you know how to put together a balanced meal with protein and fiber.
See Your Doctor Often
If you have diabetes, you should see your provider every 3 months. At these visits your provider may:
- Ask about your blood sugar level (always bring your blood glucose meter to every visit if you are checking your blood sugar at home)
- Check your blood pressure
- Check the feeling in your feet
- Check the skin and bones of your feet and legs
- Examine the back part of your eyes
The provider may also send you to the lab for blood and urine tests to:
- Make sure your kidneys are working well (every year)
- Make sure your cholesterol and triglyceride levels are healthy (every year)
- Check your A1C level to see how well your blood sugar is controlled (every 3 to 6 months)
Visit your dentist every 6 months. You should see your eye doctor once a year. Your provider may ask you to see your eye doctor more often.
American Diabetes Association website. 5. Facilitating behavior change and well-being to improve health outcomes: Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes-2022. Diabetes Care. 2022;45(Suppl 1):S60-S82. PMID: 34964866
Brownlee M, Aiello LP, Sun JK, et al. Complications of diabetes mellitus. In: Melmed S, Auchus, RJ, Goldfine AB, Koenig RJ, Rosen CJ, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 37.
Last reviewed on: 8/12/2022
Reviewed by: Sandeep K. Dhaliwal, MD, board-certified in Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolism, Springfield, VA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.