Stay Healthy with Diabetes
Chronic high blood sugar can damage
nerves, blood vessels, and organs in the
body. These organs and nerves can be
affected without you knowing. Keeping your
blood sugars, blood pressure and cholesterol
levels normal will help to prevent this
How is the body affected?
High blood sugars can damage the
small blood vessels in the eyes.
Damage to blood vessels in the
retina (back of the eye) is called
retinopathy. Diabetes also raises the risk of
cataracts and glaucoma. These problems can
cause vision loss and lead to blindness.
High blood sugar can damage the
small blood vessels in the kidneys.
The kidneys start to leak very
small proteins called
microalbumin. Kidney disease is called
nephropathy. It can lead to kidney failure
Neuropathy is damage to the
nerves from high blood sugar. It
can cause pain, numbness and
tingling, loss of feeling, and
muscle weakness in the hands, legs, and
feet. Nerves in the heart, bladder, digestive
system, and sexual organs can be affected as
Heart attack and stroke risk are
increased when high blood sugar
levels cause damage to the large
and small blood vessels to the
heart and brain. High blood pressure, high
cholesterol levels, and smoking increase the
risk even more.
Loss of blood supply to the legs and feet can
lead to problems with healing and infection.
Sores or ulcers that don’t heal can lead to
Gum disease and other mouth
problems such as tooth decay,
fungal infections, changes in
taste, and dry mouth are more
likely. An infection in the mouth can also
increase blood sugar levels.
Men may experience impotence, ejaculation
problems and low testosterone. Women may
have problems with arousal, vaginal
lubrication, ability to orgasm, and infections.
What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk
What You Need How Often Reason Goal
A1C Test Every 3 or 6 months
Know if blood sugar levels are in your
< 7% for most people
If you do not know your A1C
Check the health of your kidneys.
High blood sugar levels and high
blood pressure damage blood vessels
in the kidneys.
< 30 mg/L
Every 5 years or
more often as
If cholesterol levels are not in goal
range, discuss changes that could help
reduce risk of stroke, heart attack,
kidney and eye problems.
Triglycerides: < 150
LDL: < 100
HDL: > 40 for men; > 50 for
If blood pressure is not in goal range,
discuss changes that could help reduce
risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney and
< 140/90 for most
<130/80 for some
(Discuss with provider)
Every 6 months
or more often if
Discuss your test and exam results,
home blood sugar readings, alcohol
intake, smoking habits, exercise and
any concerns you have.
Set or revise personal health
Exam Every 1-2 years
Check for small blood vessel damage
in the back of the eyes.
Prevent eye problems that can
affect vision and lead to
Dental Exam Every 6 months
Check for tooth or gum problems.
Prevent gum problems and
tooth decay which can raise
blood sugar levels
Check nerve function, circulation, and
any nail or skin problems.
Prevent ulcers and amputation
of toes, feet, legs
As needed; ask
To protect against illness Prevent high blood sugar
levels due to illness
Learn about how to stay healthy with
diabetes; help you set personal health
Attend a class taught by
dietitians and/or nurses who
are certified diabetes educators
(CDE); include family or
support persons to learn with
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright 3/2017. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing #4814