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Learning About Tests When Your Child Has Diabetes

Why does your child need regular tests?

Diabetes can be hard on your child's body if it's not well controlled. But having certain tests on a regular schedule can help you and your doctor find problems early, when it's easier to start managing them.

What tests does your child need?

Your child's doctor may vary some of the tests, how often the tests are done, and the goals set for your child. This may depend on your child's age and size, and whether they have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The tests your child may have include these listed here.

A1c blood test.

This test gives information about your child’s average blood sugar in the last 2 to 3 months.

  • How often: Every 3 to 6 months
  • Goal: An A1c level that shows whether your child’s average blood sugar is in their target range
Blood pressure test.

This test measures the pressure of blood flow in your child's arteries. Controlling blood pressure can help prevent damage to nerves and blood vessels.

  • How often: At every visit to the doctor or at least twice a year
  • Goal: A blood pressure level in your child's target range
Cholesterol test.

This test measures the amount of a type of fat in the blood. High cholesterol is common with diabetes. It can build up inside the blood vessels. This raises the risk for heart attack and stroke.

  • How often: Your child's doctor may suggest the test based on your child's age, family history, or a physical examination.
  • Goal: A cholesterol level in your child's target range
Albumin-creatinine ratio test.

This test checks for kidney damage by looking for the protein albumin (say "al-BYOO-mun") in the urine. Albumin is normally found in the blood. Kidney damage can let small amounts of it (microalbumin) leak into the urine.

  • How often:
    • For type 1 diabetes, once a year starting at age 12, after your child has had diabetes for 5 years
    • For type 2 diabetes, once a year beginning at diagnosis
  • Goal: No albumin in the urine
Blood creatinine test.

The blood creatinine (say "kree-AT-uh-neen") level shows how well the kidneys are working. Creatinine is a waste product that muscles release into the blood. A high level may mean the kidneys are not working as well as they should.

  • How often: Depending on your child's age, length of time with diabetes, or type of diabetes treatment, your child's doctor may suggest this test
  • Goal: Normal level of creatinine in the blood
Complete foot examination.

The doctor checks for foot sores, foot pulses, and whether any sensation has been lost.

  • How often: Your child's doctor will recommend how often to have their feet checked, usually once a year
  • Goal: Healthy feet with no foot ulcers or loss of feeling
Dental examination and cleaning.

The dentist checks for gum disease and tooth decay. Children with high blood sugar are more likely to have these problems.

  • How often: Every 6 months or as often as your child's dentist recommends
  • Goal: Healthy teeth and gums
Complete eye examination.

High blood sugar levels can damage the eyes. This examination is done by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. It includes a dilated eye examination. The examination shows whether there's damage to the back of the eye (diabetic retinopathy).

  • How often:
    • For type 1 diabetes, once a year for children who have had diabetes for 5 years and are age 15 or older. Your child's doctor may consider follow-up examinations every 1 to 2 years.
    • For type 2 diabetes, once a year
  • Goal: No damage to the back of the eye.
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) blood test.

This test checks for thyroid disease. People with diabetes have an increased risk of thyroid disease.

  • How often: Soon after the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, and every 1 or 2 years after that. This test is usually not needed for children with type 2 diabetes
  • Goal: Normal levels of TSH in the blood
Liver test.

This test checks for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Children who have obesity are more likely to have this condition.

  • How often: At diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and every year after that. This test is usually not needed for children who have type 1 diabetes.
  • Goal: Normal levels of liver enzymes in the blood
Obstructive sleep apnea screening.

The doctor asks about symptoms, such as paused breathing while sleeping, snoring, morning headaches, and daytime sleepiness.

  • How often: At diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and every year after that. This test is usually not needed for children with type 1 diabetes.
  • Goal: No signs of sleep apnea

Celiac Disease screening.

This screening checks for celiac disease. People with type 1 diabetes are at a higher risk of celiac disease than people without diabetes.

  • How often: Some diabetes specialists recommend screening within a year of diagnosis of type 1 diabetes
  • Goal: No celiac disease

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Where can you learn more?

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