An estimated 30 million Americans are living with diabetes and at least one-third of them have related complications. Early detection and treatment is key to preventing blindness, kidney failure, loss of limb, and heart disease.
One of the most powerful yet simple tools you can use to take control of your diabetes is to follow what I like to call the “Diabetes Warranty Program.” The concept is similar to a maintenance program you’d follow for a car: if you perform the regularly scheduled checkups, your car will run better and last longer. It’s the same with our bodies.
Following a diabetes warranty plan will help you detect problems early so complications don’t reach end-stage levels. It’s important to know that eye, kidney, nerve, and heart disease do not have any symptoms in the early stages, so screening is crucial.
The maintenance program
Whether you’re newly diagnosed or have had diabetes your whole life, following the maintenance program below will help you feel better, avoid end-stage complications, and live a longer, healthier life.
1. Get an annual dilated eye exam from an ophthalmologist who’s familiar with diabetic eye disease (retinopathy).
2. Get an annual kidney function test, typically a blood test easily ordered by your healthcare provider.
3. Keep a close eye on your feet and have your provider inspect them at least once a year. If you have neuropathy (lack of sensation), check your feet daily and see a podiatrist at least twice a year — or immediately if you develop problems such as sores or ulcers.
4. Protect your heart by controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol, and have an annual blood pressure check and cholesterol panel. Ask your healthcare provider if you should be on a daily aspirin regimen.
5. Prevent tooth and gum disease by brushing and flossing every day. People with diabetes have a higher rate of periodontal disease, so make sure to get regular cleanings and dental exams every six months.
Everyone with diabetes should keep a record book that lists recommended tests with dates and results. This information is not only helpful for you, but also helps your healthcare providers diagnose and track problems that may occur.
As a physician who cares for people with diabetes, I love it when my patients keep good records of their medical problems, medications, other doctors they see, tests, etc. It helps me take better care of them.
We’ve come a long way in diabetes care and have more resources, medications, and treatment options at our fingertips, but it’s still important for everyone living with diabetes to take control of their own heath as best they can.