Important Health Tests for People with Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease that can affect many areas of the body, but most of the potential problems can be treated effectively when detected early.

To assure early detection of diabetes related health issues, there are several tests diabetics should have either annually or a few times each year. Regular testing facilitates better long-term health and peace of mind.

Annual Tests

Your doctor may recommend you have these tests more or less than once a year, depending on your health status.

Dilated Eye Exam. An eye doctor will determine if you have any retinal damage caused by high blood sugar. Eye drops are used to dilate (widen) the pupils, so the doctor can better examine the back of your eye. Diabetic eye complications can often be controlled, and possibly reversed, with good glucose management. Some individuals require surgery to preserve their vision.

General Health Exam. A yearly general health checkup is a good idea for everyone. Although you may see your diabetes care professionals regularly, they are focused on helping you manage your blood sugar. Your overall well-being is equally important.

Kidney Tests. Kidney health is typically measured using two tests: micro-albumin and creatinine. Micro-albumin tests detect the presence of protein in urine. This can occur if high blood sugar damages small blood vessels in the kidneys. Untreated, it may lead to kidney failure. Measuring creatinine levels lets your doctor know how effective your kidneys are a filtering waste.

Lipid Panel. Abnormal lipid readings are associated with the development of cardiovascular disease, a serious possible side effect of diabetes.

A lipid panel measures the fat in your bloodstream. Not all physicians interpret lipid results the same way, but generally they want people to keep their low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol) below 100, and their high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol) above 40. Lipid panels also measure triglycerides, another blood fat that should ideally be less than 150.

More Frequent Tests

Blood Pressure. Your physician will likely check your blood pressure whenever you visit, and this is recommended. High blood sugar can elevate blood pressure, and there are typically no symptoms to warn people when this occurs. As with lipid panel results, blood pressure readings are indicative of cardiovascular health.

Foot Exam. It is wise to have a foot exam at least twice each year for signs of abrasions or ulcers related to poor circulation. The examiner can also test for impaired sensation in the feet using a monofilament (small plastic thread). Your care team may suggest wearing special shoes, or can prescribe medication, to relieve foot sensitivity or pain.

Hemoglobin A1C. A doctor might recommend having this test two to four times per year, depending on the stability of your glucose level. The A1C is a reading of your average blood sugar over the past two or three months. It gives an overall look at the effectiveness of your current glucose management plan. Inconsistent or high A1C percentages mean your treatment plan needs tweaking

Source: Diabetes Health
Photo credit: noir imp (@flickr)

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