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Diabetes - tests and checkups

People who take control of their own diabetes care by eating healthy foods and living an active lifestyle often have good control of their blood sugar levels. Still, regular health checkups and tests are needed. These visits give you a chance to:

  • Ask your doctor or nurse questions
  • Learn more about your diabetes and what you can do to keep your blood sugar in your target range
  • Make sure you are taking your medicines the right way

Alternative names

Routine diabetes tests

See your doctor

See your diabetes doctor for an exam every 3 to 6 months. During this exam, your doctor should check your:

  • Blood pressure
  • Weight
  • Feet

See your dentist every 6 months, also.

Eye exams

An eye doctor should check your eyes every year. If the exam shows no problems developing, you can have your eyes checked every 2 years. See an eye doctor who takes care of people with diabetes.

If you have eye problems because of diabetes , you will probably see your eye doctor more often.

Foot exams

Your doctor should check the pulses in your feet and your reflexes at least once a year. Your doctor should also look for:

If you have had foot ulcers before, see your doctor every 3 to 6 months. It is always a good idea to ask your doctor to check your feet .

Hemoglobin A1c tests

An A1c lab test shows how well you are controlling your blood sugar levels over a three-month period.

The normal level is less than 6%. Most people with diabetes should aim for an A1c of less than 7%. Some people have a higher target. Your doctor will help decide what your target should be.

Higher A1c numbers mean that your blood sugar is higher and that you may be more likely to have complications from your diabetes.

Cholesterol

A cholesterol test measures cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood. You should have this kind of test in the morning, after not eating since the night before.

Adults with type 2 diabetes should have this test every year. People with high cholesterol may have this test more often.

Kidney tests

Once a year, you should have a urine test that looks for a protein called albumin.

You will have more of this protein in your blood if you have early kidney damage due to diabetes . But the level of this protein in urine can also be higher for other reasons.

Your doctor will also have you take a blood test every year that measures how well your kidneys work.

References

American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes -- 2014. Diabetes Care. 2014;37:S14-S80.

Brownlee M, Aiello LP, Cooper ME, et al. Complications of diabetes mellitus. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011: chap 33.

Updated: 8/5/2014

Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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