December 2021

6 Ways to Avoid Diabetes Complications


Diabetes can come with a host of complications, from nerve damage to eye problems to increased risk for heart disease and stroke. Keep diabetes under control with these strategies:

Person pricking their finger to test blood sugar.

1. Monitor your blood sugar levels. By using a blood glucose meter, you can make sure your blood sugar levels are in the target range. Through regular monitoring, you’ll learn how your body reacts to factors such as food, exercise, and medicine. This information is invaluable in managing your diabetes and preventing potential complications.

2. Pay particular attention to your feet. Diabetes can cause nerve damage that makes it difficult to feel an injury, so it’s important to check your feet every day to make sure they’re still in good shape. If you have trouble seeing the bottom of them, use a mirror. Look and feel for any cuts, calluses, swelling, hot spots, or dry skin.

To protect your feet, wash them with warm water and carefully dry them afterward. Use lotion to keep them moisturized, but don’t put it in between your toes.

3. Tend to your teeth. When you have a high level of sugar in your blood, you also have a high level of sugar in your saliva. That can lead to problems in your mouth, such as gum disease and cavities. If you do get gum disease, it will likely take longer to heal—and your diabetes could in turn become more difficult to manage.

Be sure to visit your dentist regularly and maintain a good oral hygiene routine. This includes brushing with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day.

4. Stop smoking, if you currently do. Not only is smoking a cause of diabetes, but it also makes managing diabetes more difficult. People who have diabetes and who smoke are at a higher risk for:

  • Heart disease

  • Kidney disease

  • Eye disease

  • Gum disease

  • Damaged nerves in the arms and legs

  • Poor blood flow to the feet and legs

These conditions can lead to pain, ulcers, blindness, amputation, and even death.

5. Take medicines as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Some people need medicine to help keep their diabetes under control. If your healthcare provider prescribes a medicine to manage your blood sugar, cholesterol, or blood pressure, it’s important to take it as directed.

6. Don’t put off treatment. If you notice something’s amiss—for instance, you think you may have a foot infection, don’t delay—see your healthcare provider. Getting treatment early reduces the chance of serious complications.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 10/2/2021
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