As someone living with type 1 diabetes, it’s easy to assume that you know the vast majority of all things related to blood sugar and insulin. Even so, there are some things associated with the condition that may surprise you.
Unlike some other chronic conditions, diabetes impacts nearly every system in your body. Thankfully, innovative technologies are now available to help people better manage their diabetes and keep complications to a minimum.
Here are seven diabetes facts and takeaways related to lifestyle and management tips for you to consider.
1. Insulin delivery options
You may be familiar with giving yourself insulin, but did you know there are other administration methods including different-sized needles, prefilled insulin pens, and insulin pumps?
Insulin pumps are small, wearable devices that steadily deliver insulin into your body throughout the day. They can also be programmed to deliver appropriate amounts in response to meals or other circumstances. This method of insulin delivery is called continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion (CSII). Research shows that CSII helps people with type 1 diabetes maintain lower A1c levels over time in comparison to their levels prior to using CSII.
Takeaway: Talk to your doctor about the best option for you.
2. Tracking trends to improve control
A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a small device that you wear to track your blood sugar levels continuously throughout the day and night, updating every 5 minutes. The device notifies you of high and low blood sugars so that you can take action to get your blood sugar into your target range without all of the guesswork. One of its best features is that it can show how your levels are trending, so you can react before levels fall too low or go too high.
Multiple studies have shown that CGMs are associated with a significant reduction in A1c. Research also shows that CGMs can decrease the risk for severe hypoglycemia, or dangerously low blood sugar levels.
Many CGM devices connect to smartphones and display your blood sugar trends at the touch of a finger, without the finger sticks, although you do have to calibrate them daily.
Takeaway: Talk to your doctor to learn more about this technological tool for diabetes control.
3. Cognitive complications
Research has linked diabetes with cognitive impairments. One study found that middle-aged adults with type 1 diabetes are up to five times more likely to experience clinically relevant cognitive impairment than those without type 1 diabetes. This link is due to the impact high blood sugar has on your body over time, and it has also been shown in younger populations with type 1 diabetes.
Takeaway: Following the diabetes management plan you develop with your healthcare team, and using all of the new tools available to you, can help prevent cognitive complications as you age.
4. Diabetes in the bedroom
Diabetes can cause erection problems in men, vaginal dryness or vaginitis in women, and anxiety in the bedroom that impacts sex drive and enjoyment. Many of these issues can be addressed with blood sugar control, medical treatment, and counseling for emotional issues such as depression or anxiety.
Takeaway: If any of these issues happen to you, know that you aren’t alone, and you shouldn’t be afraid to seek help to regain control of your sexual health.
5. The diabetes-mouth connection
People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing oral complications than those without diabetes. High blood sugar levels can lead to gum disease, mouth infections, cavities, and other complications that can lead to tooth loss.
Takeaway: A dentist is an important part of your diabetes healthcare team — make sure you let them know that you have diabetes and fill them in on your A1c levels to track any oral health trends in relation to your diabetes management. You can even show them the trends your CGM is tracking on your smartphone!
6. High blood sugar and blindness
Did you know that over time, diabetes and high blood sugar can damage the blood vessels in your eyes? This can lead to a loss of vision or even blindness.
Takeaway: Going to an eye doctor regularly for screenings and getting a yearly dilated eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist can help detect damage early. This is important because prompt treatment can prevent or delay the progression of the damage and save your sight.
7. The importance of footwear
Who doesn’t love wearing a nice new pair of sparkly high heels or top-of-the-line sandals? But if your shoes are more stylish than they are comfortable, you may want to rethink your decision.
Foot problems can be a serious complication of diabetes, but they don’t have to be part of your diabetes journey. If you do all you can to manage your blood sugar and take care of your feet, you’ll greatly lower your risk. Wear thick, unseamed, well-fitting socks and comfortable, closed-toe shoes that fit well. High-heel shoes with pointy toes, sandals, or sneakers that are too tight can lead to blisters, bunions, corns, and other issues.
Diabetes impacts your body’s ability to heal wounds, and sometimes your ability to notice that they are in places that are hard to see (due to nerve damage, also known as neuropathy). Be sure to inspect your feet each day for any changes or wounds, and talk to a member of your healthcare team if you experience any discomfort to prevent long-term damage.
Takeaway: Controlling your blood sugar is the best thing you can do to prevent complications.