Complications of diabetes

Diabetes is common, affecting one of every four older adults. The condition occurs when the body doesn’t process sugars correctly, leaving too much in the blood. This is a setup for complications, many of them quite serious.

To reduce the impact of the most typical complications:

Check the feet. Many diabetics experience nerve problems in their feet and legs: numbness, tingling, burning, or pain. It’s important that your loved one visually check his or her feet every day. Look for cuts, redness, bruises, sores, ulcers, or infections. A hand mirror on the floor can help with seeing all around the foot. Your diabetic relative could have an infection and not even feel it! Such infections can lead to toe or foot amputation.

Get an annual eye exam. Diabetes injures the blood vessels, which in turn can cause problems with the eyes. Spots or dark strings (floaters) are signs of diabetic retinopathy, as are blurry vision or dark or empty spots. Have your relative’s eyes examined once a year.

Prevent falls. Numb feet and poor vision create balance problems. As a result, diabetics are at great risk of falling. Be sure your loved one has good glasses and sturdy shoes. Fix any tripping hazards around the home. Watch for bladder issues, another common complication, that could cause rushing to the bathroom (and then a fall). Also have the doctor review medications. Ask about alternatives for any drugs that list dizziness as a side effect.

Fortunately, most complications develop gradually. To avoid them, help your loved one keep his or her blood sugar stable. Daily exercise, healthy eating, taking medications as directed, and stopping smoking all will contribute to a lower risk of developing any serious problems. Ask your doctor what is available in terms of special programs to help diabetics manage their condition effectively.