Living With Diabetes
Diabetes is a chronic condition that can have significant impacts on many different parts of the body.Here are some of the ways that diabetes can affect parts of the body:
Diabetes can affect the digestive system in several ways. High blood sugar levels can damage nerves in the digestive tract, leading to a condition called gastroparesis, which can cause nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Diabetes can also impair the pancreas's ability to produce insulin and digestive enzymes, leading to problems with digestion and nutrient absorption.
Nutrition and weight loss are important factors in managing diabetes because they can help regulate blood sugar levels, reduce the risk of complications, and improve overall health.
It is important for people with diabetes to work closely with their healthcare team, including a registered dietitian, to develop a nutrition plan that meets their individual needs. This may involve making lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity levels, monitoring blood sugar levels regularly, and taking medications as prescribed.
Making better eating choices can help people with diabetes manage their blood sugar levels and improve their overall health. Our dietitians and certified diabetes educators offer a personalized meal plan that takes into account your health goals, lifestyle and preferences. The meal plan is based on the principles of balanced nutrition, portion control, and carbohydrate counting, and it may also involve adjusting the timing and frequency of meals and snacks.
Learn more about our diabetes and nutrition support services.
Weight loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, has been found to improve diabetes in many cases. At Sentara, we view weight-loss surgery as a tool - one you can use, along with healthy eating, exercise and other healthy behaviors - to help you manage your weight. It's the first step in the journey to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. And with a healthy weight comes a wealth of benefits, like normal blood sugars, lower blood pressure, more active days and more restful nights.
Sentara offers several procedures for weight loss surgery.
Diabetes can damage the blood vessels in the retina, leading to a condition called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes can affect the eyes in a number of ways, and people with diabetes are at increased risk of developing eye problems including diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma. To prevent these complications, people with diabetes should have regular eye exams with an eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist). The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes have a dilated eye exam at least once a year, even if there are no symptoms of eye problems.
People with diabetes are at increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease. High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and lead to atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries), which can impair blood flow to the heart and other organs.
Sentara offers nationally recognized comprehensive heart services for the prevention and maintenance of heart disease, which is a major risk for people living with diabetes. We’re here to help you every step of the way. Learn more about Sentara Heart Services and treatments.
Here are some examples of heart services that are important for diabetes patients:
- Regular heart check-ups: You should receive regular check-ups with your healthcare provider to monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other risk factors for heart disease. These check-ups can help detect any problems early on and help prevent complications.
- Medication management: You may need medication to manage your blood pressure, cholesterol, and other heart-related conditions.
- Cardiac rehabilitation: Cardiac rehabilitation programs can help diabetes patients recover from heart-related procedures such as bypass surgery or heart attack. These programs typically include exercise, education on heart-healthy lifestyle changes, and emotional support.
- Diabetes education: Diabetes education programs can help diabetes patients learn how to manage their condition and reduce their risk of complications, including heart disease.
- Nutrition counseling: Nutrition counseling can help diabetes patients learn how to make healthy food choices to manage their blood sugar levels and reduce their risk of heart disease.
Diabetes is a leading cause of kidney disease or diabetic nephropathy. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, impairing their ability to filter waste products from the blood. This can lead to kidney failure and the need for dialysis or kidney transplant.
Diabetic nephropathy can progress slowly over several years, and in its early stages, there may be no noticeable symptoms. However, as the condition worsens, it can cause symptoms such as swelling in the legs and ankles, high blood pressure, and increased protein in the urine. If left untreated, diabetic nephropathy can lead to end-stage kidney disease, which requires dialysis or a kidney transplant to manage.
Sentara provides minimally invasive and open-surgery approaches to treating kidney disease. We also partner with the Sentara Transplant Center to assist patients needing kidney transplants. For patients whose kidneys are severely diseased and require dialysis, we offer the full range of dialysis access and dialysis access management.
Learn more about our Kidney Disease treatment options.
People with diabetes can experience depression and anxiety related to their condition. In fact, research suggests that people with diabetes are at increased risk for developing depression and anxiety compared to the general population.
Living with a chronic condition like diabetes can be stressful and challenging, and it can take a toll on a person's mental health. If you or someone you know is living with diabetes and experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, it is important to seek help. Talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns, as they can provide resources and support to help manage your mental health.
Diabetes can damage nerves throughout the body, causing a condition called diabetic neuropathy. Symptoms of neuropathy can include numbness, tingling, and pain in the feet and hands. In severe cases, neuropathy can lead to problems with balance, coordination, and muscle weakness.
Vascular and foot care are important aspects of managing diabetes. People with diabetes are at increased risk for vascular complications, including peripheral artery disease (PAD), which can affect blood flow to the legs and feet. They are also at risk for foot complications, such as diabetic neuropathy and foot ulcers.
Managing diabetes involves taking care of your feet and blood vessels. People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing problems with the blood flow to their legs and feet and can also develop nerve damage in their feet. Here are some things you can do to take care of your feet and blood vessels:
1. Check your feet every day for any cuts, blisters, or sores. Wear comfortable shoes that fit well, and avoid going barefoot.
2. See a healthcare provider for a foot exam at least once a year, or more often if you have any foot problems.
3. Keep your blood sugar levels in the target range by monitoring your blood sugar regularly, taking your medication as prescribed, and making healthy lifestyle choices such as eating a healthy diet and exercising.
4. If you smoke, quit smoking to help improve circulation and reduce the risk of foot problems.
5. Learn more about how to take care of your feet and blood vessels. Your healthcare provider can provide you with information and education on proper foot care and lifestyle changes that can help prevent complications.
By taking care of your feet and blood vessels, you can help reduce your risk of complications from diabetes and improve your overall health. Learn more about Sentara vascular services.
Women with diabetes are at increased risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy, which can lead to complications for both mother and baby. Diabetes can also cause erectile dysfunction in men and impair fertility in both men and women.
People with diabetes are at increased risk of developing skin conditions, including bacterial and fungal infections, as well as dry itching skin. High blood sugar levels can also impair wound healing, which can lead to infections and other complications.