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Preventing diabetes complications

Good management of diabetes and blood glucose levels can help prevent complications of diabetes, such as heart disease and stroke.

Complications of diabetes include:

Heart disease

At every visit, your doctor or nurse will check your blood pressure. Your blood cholesterol level and triglycerides should be checked at your first visit and then at least annually - and more often until target levels are achieved. A baseline ECG should also be obtained as part of a complete medical record. Tell your doctor any personal risk factors you have for heart disease and work out a prevention plan that includes weight loss, regular exercise and stress management, to help to keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides at normal levels.


Knowing the warning signs and risks of stroke can help prevent this serious problem from resulting in problems for you. If you have any signs and symptoms of stroke- including sudden weakness on one side of the face or body; numbness in the face, arm, leg; difficulty speaking; trouble seeing with both eyes - call 999. If you have high blood pressure, treating it effectively reduces both your risk of having and dying from a stroke. If you smoke, quit; stopping smoking will decrease the risk of stroke. Abnormally high cholesterol levels also increase your risk of stroke. Your diet, activity level and medication can reduce your cholesterol level and reduce your risk of stroke.

Kidney disease (nephropathy)

After an initial negative screening test, urine testing should be performed at least yearly to look for kidney damage in those with diabetes. At baseline, a creatinine blood test (kidney function test) should also be done. Your doctor or nurse will also check your blood pressure regularly since control of high blood pressure is essential in preventing and slowing kidney disease. Blood pressure should be less than 130/80. Persistent leg or feet swelling may be a symptom of kidney disease and should be reported to your doctor.

Diabetic neuropathy

Numbness, burning or pain in your feet or hands should be reported to your doctor or nurse as they can be signs of diabetic neuropathy - nerve damage in people with diabetes. You should check your feet daily for signs of infection such as redness or sores. If you notice any of these symptoms before your scheduled visit, seek medical advice immediately. During your routine visits talk to your doctor about preventing and treating calluses, cracks or skin breakdown.

Diabetic retinopathy

All people with diabetes should have an eye examination at least every year to look for signs of diabetic retinopathy. The doctor will dilate your eyes so that he or she can see the back of the eye and determine if the diabetes is causing damage. People with eye disease caused by diabetes, blurred vision in one eye, or blind spots may need to see their ophthalmologist more frequently. Women with diabetes who become pregnant should have a comprehensive eye test during the first trimester and close follow-up with an eye doctor during their pregnancy. (This recommendation does not apply to women who develop gestational diabetes.) Controlling high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and keeping blood sugars in target range help reduce your risk of diabetic retinopathy.

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