Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body makes or uses insulin. Insulin controls the amount of sugar in the blood. Insulin helps the sugar (glucose) in the blood move into the body’s cells for energy. Without enough insulin, cells are starved and sugar builds up in the blood. When sugar builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can cause damage to the kidneys, heart, eyes and nerves.

There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 or Type 2. The most common is Type 2. When a person has Type 2 diabetes, their body makes insulin, but it does not use the insulin it makes properly. To determine if a person has diabetes, a doctor will do a blood test to check blood sugar levels.

Many men and women do not realize they are at risk to develop diabetes. People who are African American, Latino, Asian American, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders are more at risk to develop diabetes.

A person should not wait for an annual doctor’s visit if experiencing one or more of these symptoms:

  • Increased thirst or urination
  • Hunger
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight loss that is unusual
  • Tingling in hands or feet
  • Sleepiness that is unexplained

Living With Diabetes: A Helpful Checklist

Diabetes is a common, controllable condition that never goes away once diagnosed. However, it is possible to still “live well” with the condition. No matter what type of diabetes a person has, it is important to know how to manage it. People with diabetes can be just as healthy as people without diabetes, but it takes work and commitment.

Diabetes: Self-Care Basics

A  person with diabetes should know:

  • his/her personal blood sugar goal
  • how to test blood sugar
  • how often to test blood sugar
  • what blood sugar numbers mean
  • what to do if blood sugars are too high or low
  • how to dispose of lancets or needles (Do not use the regular garbage for disposal. (For information about sharps containers contact: (888) 936-7463 [Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources].)
  • who to contact with questions or concerns

Living Well: A Useful Checklist

  • Know the type of food to buy and prepare. Portion size is important.
  • A dietitian or Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) can help make a personalized food/meal plan.
  • To find a Diabetes Educator in the community: (800) 338-3633.
  • To find more information about nutrition: (800) 877-1600 or www.eatright.org.
  • Move, stay active and stick to an exercise schedule each week. Physical activity may help lower blood sugar.
  • Check with a doctor before beginning any activity.
  • Typical Target: 150 minutes/week spread over at least 3 days.
  • Wear shoes that fit properly.
  • Feet should be checked every day for blisters or redness. Alert the doctor or clinic staff if there are problems.
  • Fill all prescriptions.
  • Do not be afraid to ask the doctor or pharmacist about the medicine that is being prescribed.
  • Be prepared for holidays, vacations and emergencies. Make sure that there is medicine/supplies available.
  • Be sure to talk to the pharmacist before buying or using any over-the-counter medication.
  • Take medicine when and how the doctor/healthcare provider prescribes.
    •  Know what the side effects of medicine might be.
    •  Do not wait to contact the doctor or healthcare provider if there are side effects.
  • Blood sugar should be tested as often as the doctor/healthcare provider recommends.
  • Always have a supply of blood sugar testing supplies on hand.
  • Check with the doctor/healthcare provider about carrying quick-acting sugar.
  • Always contact the doctor or clinic staff with questions or problems.
  • Enroll in a local Living Well with Diabetes (self-management) program.
  • Meet other people or caregivers who want to learn how to better manage living with diabetes day to day.
  • Classes are led by healthcare professionals who specialize in diabetes care and people who are actually living with diabetes.
  • Classes are held in communities throughout Wisconsin. Many of these classes are offered free of charge or have scholarships available, if there is a registration fee.
  • Visit: https://wihealthyaging.org/workshops for a schedule and local classes. (These workshops are listed as “Diabetes” in the schedule.)

Laboratory Tests and Other Exams

A1C – This is a blood test that is done to check the overall blood sugar control for the past 2-3 months. This test should be done at least one time every 3-6 months.

Fasting Lipid Panel – This is a blood test to check the amount of fat in the blood. A person with diabetes should have this test one time per year.

Kidney Function Test-Serum Creatinine – This blood test is used to estimate the GFR (glomerular filtration rate). The eGFR tells how well the kidneys are filtering waste and if the kidneys are damaged. This blood test should be done one time per year.

Kidney Function Test-Albumin-to-Creatinine Ratio – This urine test checks for micro albuminuria (tiny amounts of protein in the urine.). This urine test should be done 1 time per year.

Exams and Shots

Physical Exam – Have a complete physical every year. There should also be a special “diabetes” visit once every 3-6 months specifically to talk to the doctor/healthcare team.

Dilated Retinal Eye Exam – Visit an eye doctor (optometrist) at least one time each year.

Dental Exam – Visit a dentist for a complete exam and teeth cleaning every 6 months.

Foot Exam – Feet should be checked at each doctor’s office visit. Shoes and socks should be removed.

  • It is also important to check both feet each day.
  • Contact the doctor or clinic if there are any changes to the feet, especially if a cut or blister does not heal immediately.

Blood Pressure Check – Blood pressure should be checked at every doctor’s office visit.

  • Ask the doctor or clinic staff about the benefits of purchasing and using a blood pressure machine to monitor blood pressure at home.

Flu, Pneumonia and Hepatitis B Shot – The doctor or clinic staff can discuss if these shots would be beneficial.

Diabetes: Effects on the Kidneys

Diabetes affects blood vessels throughout the entire body. When the blood vessels in the kidneys are injured, the kidneys cannot clean the body’s blood properly. The body will retain water and salt, which can result in weight gain and ankle swelling. Damage to the kidneys may also cause protein to be leaked into urine and extra waste materials to build up in the blood.

Diabetes damages nerves in the body which could affect the bladder. Nerve damage may cause difficulty for the bladder to empty. A full bladder creates extra pressure that can injure the kidneys.

Learn more. Order any of the following from the NATIONAL KIDNEY FOUNDATION OF WISCONSIN.  Call: 414-897-8669 or email .

All materials are FREE.

This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a doctor or healthcare clinic for specific treatment recommendations.

Last updated: September 1, 2017