Islets of Hope for persons newly diagnosed with diabetes

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Article by Lahle Wolfe. For reprint information e-mail:

diabetes forums
diabetes support lists
diabetes blog

Links to more comprehensive information on complications of diabetes

Diabetic Ketoacidosis
Diabetic Neuropathy
Diabetic Retinopathy
Eating Disorders
Erectile Dysfunctions
Foot & Skin Problems
Frozen Shoulder
Gum Disease
Heart Problems
High Blood Pressure
Insulin Shock
Kidney Problems
Lactic Acidosis
Seizures & Coma
Peripheral Artery Disease
Sexual Problems
Urologic Problems
Weight Gain
Weight Loss
Wound Care

Join an Islets of Hope support group for the Newly Diagnosed

Free Islets of Hope publications to Print

Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) - IOH Publication DKA-1-2006; 7 pages

Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention & Emergency Care Form
IOH Publication HG-1-2006; 13 pages

Reactive and Fasting Hypoglycemia
Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention & Emergency Care Form
IOH Publication HG-2-2006; 13 pages

Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention
IOH Publication HG-3-2006; 12 pages

How to Prepare & Inject Glucagon for Treatment of Severe Hypoglycemia  (Illustrated)
Prepare ahead for emergencies, about hypoglycemia, about glucagon, illustratred step-by-step instructions on how to prepare and inject glucagon, and what to do afterward.

You can also print selected fast-reference excepts from this full-length publication: TRE-1-2006-fr

Newly Diagnosed (easier reading) Problems & Complaints with Diabetes

Comprehensive Information on Diabetes Problems & Complaints

ADA complete guide to diabetes

by the American Diabetes Association

ADA Complete Guide to Diabetes:  Perhaps the most complete and authoritative resource on diabetes, American Diabetes Association Complete Guide to Diabetes covers everything from how to manage types 1 and 2 and gestational diabetes, to traveling with insulin, sick-day action plans, and recognizing hypoglycemia.

Other contents include information on symptoms, complications, exercise and nutrition, blood sugar control, sexual issues, drug therapies, insulin regimes, and much more. Plus, information for every parent about children, schools, and day care. This updated third edition features new information on medications, diabetes management and new therapies, and new treatments for diabetes complications.

Newly Diagnosed Diabetes Information
Information for those Newly Diagnosed with Diabetes                             Print Full Diabetes Complications Article

Complications of diabetes
Infections, chronic wounds, foot and
skin problems, and gum disease

This section:   Amputation *  Foot & Skin Problems  *  Gum Disease  *  Infections  *  Wound Care

Other complications:

Amputation  *  Blindness  *  Diabetic Ketoacidosis  *  Diabetic Neuropathy  *  Diabetic Retinopathy  *
Eating Disorders  *   Erectile Dysfunctions  *  Foot & Skin Problems  *  Gastroparesis
 *  Gum Disease *    Heart Problems  *
High Blood Pressure
 *  Infections  *   Infertility  *  Insulin Shock  *  Kidney Problems  *  Seizures & Coma  *
Peripheral Artery Disease  * Sexual Problems  *  Urologic Problems  *  Weight Gain  *  Weight Loss
 *  Wound Care

Click on any link to read more in-depth information about each topic.


Amputation is the surgical removal of all, or part, or the body such as toes, a foot, or leg.  When nerves are damaged from uncontrolled diabetes (hyperglycemia, or high blood glucose levels) tissues may lose circulation as well as the ability to properly detect pain.  This nerve damage, called "neuropathy," can affect fingers, toes, feet, legs, and organs, including eyes and the digestive tract.  When nerves in the feet and legs are damaged serious consequences can result.

Because neuropathy may cause loss of sensation from nerve damage and reduce circulation throughout the body, including the feet, if you have diabetes you need to pay special attention to your feet.   Reduced sensation can interfere with the body’s injury warning system:  pain.  Even small cuts, blisters, and abrasions can go unnoticed (because they don't hurt) and can become infected due to poor circulation.

New procedures in amputation now limit the extensiveness of the operation.  Learn about a limb-saving surgical procedure that many American doctors have been slow to perform.  Also, causes, treatment, and prevention of ulcerations that can lead to amputation.

See our section on Foot Care Tips  

Foot & Skin Problems

Elevated glucose levels damage nerves throughout the body, including the feet.  Careful, daily examination of your feet is vital. Small cuts and wounds can become severely infected due to poor circulation resulting from diabetic neuropathy.  Wounds not properly cared for can even lead to gangrene and amputation. Read excerpts from  NIH's publication on Foot and Skin Care, or IOH's special section on foot problems and care tips.

Preventative Care for Diabetes Foot-Related Complications

Since most problems for diabetics begin with small sores on the skin like scrapes and blisters it is important to visually inspect your feet every single day.  Other steps you can take to ensure healthy feet include:

  • Quit smoking, which can cause or aggravate circulatory problems,
  • Check blood glucose often, and keep in target range as much as possible,
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Exercise regularly (exercise increases blood flow and insulin sensitivity)
  • Maintain a healthy body weight,
  • Check your feet DAILY and immediately care for small cuts or blisters,
  • Have your doctor inspect your feet and hands at every visit,
  • See your doctor at the FIRST sign of any foot problems,
  • Be aware that heating pads or electric blankets can burn skin, especially when neuropathy is present.

The most frequent reason for hospitalization in persons with diabetes is due to problems with their feet.  But many of these problems, including amputation and hospitalization, could be prevented through simple, preventive foot care.

Gum Disease

Tooth and gum problems can happen to anyone when a sticky film full of germs (called plaque) builds up on your teeth. High blood glucose helps germs (bacteria) grow. When this happens you can get red, sore, and swollen gums that bleed when you brush your teeth.

People with diabetes can have tooth and gum problems more often if their blood glucose stays high. High blood glucose can make tooth and gum problems worse. You can even lose your teeth.  And smoking makes it more likely for you to get a bad case of gum disease, especially if you have diabetes and are age 45 or older.

Red, sore, and bleeding gums are the first sign of gum disease. This can lead to periodontitis, an infection in the gums and the bone that holds the teeth in place. If the infection gets worse, your gums may pull away from your teeth, making your teeth look long.

Call your dentist if you think you have problems with your teeth or gums.


A combination of things can lead to an increase in infections for persons with diabetes.  Infections include illness, wound infection, and yeast infections.

Diabetics in general, have a tendency towards easier infection, and infections with diabetes are slower and harder to overcome – especially when blood glucose is not under tight control.  Hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels) reduce the body's ability to fight infection normally.  Keeping your blood glucose in range will not only help prevent nerve, tissue, organ damage, and infection, but will help your body overcome an infection should you have one.

Infections can ulcerate, fail to respond to treatment, and eventually all, or a portion of the area (usually the feet), may need to be surgically removed (amputated).  If the infection persists even after amputation, it may even be necessary to remove part of the leg from below the knee in order to halt the deadly progression, which unaddressed, can lead to death.  

Wound Care

Those with diabetes have an increased susceptibility to infections.  Wounds must be quickly and properly cared for in order to avoid chronic infection or amputation.

The two single most important things that you can do to prevent chronic wounds from developing from infection are:

  1. Keep your blood glucose levels in range -- high blood sugars increases your risk or infection, neuropathy, and circulatory problems.
  2. Check your feet daily and report any blisters, sores, or cuts that don't heal quickly to your doctor ... immediately!

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Page Updated 03/23/2006