Diabetes Alert Day March 26

Diabetes team members at VMH ... Stay Alert when managing diabetes is the advice from the Diabetes Team at Veterans Memorial Hospital. Pictured above, left to right, are diabetic team members Jill Fleming, Dietitian and Angie Mettille, RN, Diabetic Educator at VMH. Submitted photo.

By Angie Mettille, RN
Diabetic Educator
Veterans Memorial Hospital

Living with Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes can make you feel like you have more daily tasks than someone who does not have diabetes. Whether it’s checking your blood sugars, monitoring your carbohydrates, exercising, or taking medications and insulin injections, you probably often feel overwhelmed with your day to day routine.

It is normal to get so caught up in a daily routine that you may forget about the less frequent, but just as important, annual or bi-annual exams that can help you attain the high quality of life you are working towards daily. Dilated pupil exams, dental exams, foot exams, immunizations such as the influenza vaccine, and visits with your diabetes healthcare team are all time-worthy appointments to fit into your calendar.

Dilated pupil exam: Even if you do not require prescription glasses or contacts, visiting an optometrist yearly is important for healthy eyes and vision. Elevated blood sugars can damage the small blood vessels in your eyes, leading to vision problems, such as diabetic retinopathy. Often, an optometrist can recognize these problems at early stages, even prior to the patient having symptoms of visual impairment, and start treatment to delay progression and prevent blindness.

Dental exam: Bacteria are normally found in the healthy mouth, but levels can be higher than normal with diabetes because of the higher amount of glucose in the saliva.  Oral complications, such as gum disease, become more common with higher bacteria levels. Good oral hygiene with brushing and flossing, and a visit to the dentist at least every six months, can assure you have the optimum oral health and help you maintain your pearly whites.

Foot exam: Our feet and legs allow us our independence in so many ways. Monitoring your feet for pressure areas or sores should be a high priority; in fact foot care is so important that a daily visual inspection of your feet is advised. Another task to add to the daily list! If a reddened or open area is discovered, be proactive and see your physician as soon as possible. Unfortunately, a simple open area on the foot can develop into a large wound in a short amount of time if not properly treated. Wounds that are difficult to treat can lead to amputation. Your primary care physician should examine your feet at every visit, and if there are concerns, he or she may even refer you to a podiatrist for a treatment plan. It is recommended to have a medical professional, such as one in podiatry or home health care, trim your nails or assist in managing corns and calluses, to reduce the risk of causing a wound. Buy shoes that fit well, that do not put pressure on any area of the foot. It may even be helpful to have your shoes professionally sized. It is not recommended to walk barefoot, even in your own home, because of the risk of stepping on a sharp object or injuring your foot on a piece of furniture.

Immunizations: People with diabetes may be extra vulnerable to infectious diseases, such as pneumonia, influenza, hepatitis B and shingles, just to name a few. Staying current on immunizations will help you stay healthy and is luckily easy to achieve. Although the influenza vaccine is yearly, most others are required much less frequently. Some even keep you protected throughout your lifetime after just one or two injections. Ask your primary care provider if you are current on these important vaccines.

Your healthcare team can help you keep your diabetes management on track. Seeing your physician regularly can assure your blood pressure, cholesterol and A1c levels are within target. They can also help you stay on track with all of the other tasks of managing diabetes, whether daily or less frequent. Visiting your diabetes education team regularly can also help minimize complications and keep you educated on how to be your healthiest self.

In addition to your medical team, having people in your daily life who support you is another key to success. Family and friends can help fill that role, and a diabetes support group may also be helpful. Veterans Memorial Hospital offers a free monthly support group, held on the third Thursday of the month at 10 a.m. in the Large Conference Room. For more information, contact the Veterans Memorial Hospital Diabetes Education Office at 563-568-3411 ext. 172.

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