|If you were just diagnosed with
diabetes, your mind is probably spinning and your emotions are probably
on a roller-coaster ride. Most people don't take the news very well. You
are likely to experience shock, denial, anger and depression before you
finally reach acceptance.
But take heart! You're going to be just fine. Diabetes is not a death
sentence. Now is the time to keep a cool head and put together a
practical program, to keep the disease in control. Here are the
essential steps you must take to control your diabetes -- and get on
with your life.
One: Assemble a good medical team.
Everyone with diabetes needs to be in the care of a capable physician.
But it doesn't necessarily have to be the person who diagnosed your
diabetes. You're going to be seeing your doctor at least three-to-four
times a year, and you'll be relying on this physician to recommend the
other members of your health care team. So find someone you like, trust,
and are comfortable with. Don't settle for just anyone. Find a doctor
who has experience treating patients with diabetes and is willing and
able to take the time to listen to your concerns and answer your
Make sure your doctor keeps up with the latest developments in
diabetes treatment. Diabetes care is rapidly evolving, and unless your
doctor keeps up with the latest advances, you may not get the quality of
care you deserve and need. If your doctor doesn't take care of a lot of
people with diabetes, you may be better off with an endocrinologist -- a
doctor who has advanced training in dealing with diabetes and other
hormone-related diseases -- or a diabetologist, a specialist who only
takes care of people with diabetes.
It's your health that's at stake here. If your doctor doesn't help
you get your blood sugars at near normal levels in short order, do not
be afraid to change doctors until you find one who will!
Certified Diabetes Educator.
Ideally, in addition to your physician, you'll also want to see a
certified diabetes educator. A diabetes educator will teach you the
practical techniques of dealing with diabetes, including how to take
your insulin or other medicine, how to measure your blood glucose
levels, and much more. Your doctor may recommend an educator, or you can
call the American Association of Diabetes Educators at 800 832-6874.
Registered dietitian. Eating
the right diet is a critical part of diabetes therapy. Your Certified
Diabetes Educator can answer many of your questions about diet, but you
may also want to see a registered dietitian. Again, your doctor may
recommend one who works with people with diabetes. Or you can call the
American Dietetic Association at 800-366-1655.
diabetes can damage the eye, you will definitely want an ophthalmologist
(an eye doctor) on your health care team.
Experts recommend that people with Type 1 diabetes get a dilated
retinal examination once a year, starting five years after the onset of
diabetes. People with Type 2 diabetes should have a yearly dilated
retinal examination starting immediately after diagnosis -- because Type
2 diabetes is often not diagnosed until you have had the disease for
many years. (Many people first learn they have diabetes when their
ophthalmologist finds diabetes retinopathy during a routine eye exam.)
Women with gestational diabetes are particularly at risk for diabetic
retinopathy, and some experts recommend that they have their eyes
examined every three months during their pregnancy.
Early detection is the key. Much can be done to prevent and treat
diabetic eye disease. The sooner your ophthalmologist spots it, the
better job he or she can do of stopping it.
Dentist. Unfortunately, one of
the complications of diabetes is dental problems, including cavities and
gum disease. When diabetes is poorly controlled, the levels of sugar in
your saliva are just as high as in your blood, and that causes tooth
decay. High blood sugar levels also damage the blood vessels in your
mouth, reducing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the gum tissues and
weakening their resistance to infection.
Your best defense is good diabetes control. Keep your blood sugar
levels at normal levels, and you're not likely to have any more dental
problems that someone who does not have diabetes.
But it doesn't hurt to practice good dental hygiene, too! Brush your
teeth twice a day, and floss to get at the plague between your teeth
that the brush can't reach. Replace your brush regularly. See your
dentist regularly. And have your teeth professionally cleaned at least
every six months.
Podiatrist. If you have
circulatory problems or nerve damage in your feet, you will also want to
see a podiatrist (a foot doctor).
Unfortunately, people with diabetes -- especially if it's poorly
controlled -- often experience some degree of diabetic neuropathy, the
impairment or damage of nerve function due to increased blood sugars.
This can result in tingling, burning or numbness in the hands or -- even
more frequently -- the feet. It can also result in a decreased ability
to feel pain, especially in the extremities.
The way to prevent neuropathy is to carefully control your blood
sugar levels. Good diabetes control has been proven to dramatically
decrease your risk of neuropathy.
In any case, people with diabetes are encouraged to visually inspect
their feet every day. If you do have some degree of neuropathy, you may
have a cut or blister that you're not able to feel. It's important to
take care of any kind of injury to the foot right away, because foot
injuries in people with diabetes can be very hard to heal. It's also a
good idea to see a podiatrist (foot doctor) at least once a year.
Two: Learn everything you can about
People with diabetes manage their own health. Your
doctor and the rest of your healthcare team will help, of course. But,
day-to-day, you must administer your own treatment. Your medical team
can help you get your diabetes under control. But only you can actually
do it. It's generally accepted that 5 percent of diabetes care is up to
your doctor, and 95% is up to you.
So read up! Do the research. Find out all you can about diabetes --
so you can deal with it effectively.
Diabetes care is constantly changing. Important new products that can
help you control your diabetes come on the market virtually every month.
You would be wise to subscribe to at least one magazine to keep up with
the latest advances. In addition to "Diabetes Positive!," good
choices include "Diabetes Interview," "Diabetes
Self-Management" and "Diabetes Forecast."
It also helps to surf the Web. The American Diabetes Association has
a Web site, as do many other organizations that can help you live well
in spite of the challenge that diabetes represents. Almost all of the
major manufacturers of diabetes medicines, supplies, equipment, and
insulin also have their own sites, many of which are very helpful.
Three: Get organized!
Gather the supplies you need including your
insulin or other drugs your physician may have prescribed, and a blood
glucose meter. Decide when you're going to exercise and what you're
going to eat. Make a plan.
Four: Maintain a positive attitude.
One of the major hazards of diabetes is depression.
But you can't give into it! Long-term, your health depends on
maintaining a positive attitude as much as anything else.
If you think you are seriously depressed, by all means tell your
doctor right away. It's nothing to be ashamed of. People with diabetes
suffer from depression at a rate that is two-to-four times higher than
the general population. The key is to do something about it!
Professional counseling, support groups and antidepressant medications
can all help get you back on track. Exercise is also a highly effective
For fighting off everyday garden-variety blahs and generally keeping
your chin up, positive thinking techniques -- visualization, positive
self-talk, affirmations, relaxation, and medication -- can be
tremendously helpful. Now is the time to start learning about them.
Five: Accept the changes you're going to
have to make and get started.
The people who do best with diabetes are the people
who, first of all, accept it. They take positive steps to deal with it.
And then -- they get on with their lives. They feel they have a mission,
a purpose, a reason for living. They feed their minds a steady diet of
positive thoughts. They love, they work, they laugh, they play, they
plan for the future and they live their lives, just like everybody else.
Your diabetes and your health are completely under your control. Take
good care of yourself and you'll live a long, happy, healthy life!