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Learning About Tests When You Have Diabetes

Why do you need regular tests?

Diabetes can lead to other health problems if it's not well controlled. You'll need tests to monitor how well your diabetes is controlled and to check for other things like high cholesterol or kidney problems. Having tests on a regular schedule can help your doctor find problems early, when it's easier to manage them.

What tests do you need?

These are the tests you may need and how often you should have them.

A1c blood test.
This test shows the average level of blood sugar over the past 2 to 3 months. It helps your doctor see whether blood sugar levels have been staying within your target range.
  • How often: Every 3 to 6 months
  • Goal: Below 7%, or at your individual A1c target
Blood pressure test.

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

  • How often: At least once a least once a year or more often if your blood pressure is high
  • Goal: 130/80, or a measurement in your individual target range
Cholesterol test.

This test measures the amount of a type of fat in the blood. It is common for people with diabetes to also have high cholesterol. Too much cholesterol in the blood can build up inside the blood vessels and raise the risk for heart attack and stroke.

  • How often: Once a year or as often as your doctor recommends
  • Goal: LDL less than 2.0, or a 50% lower score in your personal cholesterol level
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 people with Type 1 diabetes, screen once a year after having diabetes for 5 years. For people with Type 2 diabetes, screen at the time of diagnosis and then every year.
  • Goal: No protein in the urine
Blood creatinine test/estimated glomerular filtration (eGFR).

The blood creatinine (say "kree-AT-uh-neen") level shows how well your kidneys are working. Creatinine is a waste product that muscles release into the blood. Blood creatinine is used to estimate the glomerular filtration rate. A high level of creatinine and/or a low eGFR may mean your kidneys are not working as well as they should.

  • How often: For people with type 1 diabetes, screen once a year after having diabetes for 5 years. For people with type 2 diabetes, screen at the time of diagnosis and then every year.
  • Goal: Normal level of creatinine in the blood. The eGFR goal is greater than 60 mL/min/1.73 m².
Complete foot examination.

You should check your feet every day, and talk to your doctor if you notice any sores or redness on your feet. The doctor checks for foot sores and whether any sensation has been lost.

  • How often: Every day at home, once a year by a healthcare professional
  • Goal: Healthy feet with no foot ulcers or loss of feeling
Dental examination and cleaning.

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

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

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

  • How often: Every year. Some doctors may recommend less frequent eye examinations (for example, every 2 years) if you have no signs of diabetic retinopathy.
  • Goal: No damage to the back of the eye
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) blood test.

This test checks for thyroid disease. Too little thyroid hormone can cause some medicines (like insulin) to stay in the body longer. This can cause low blood sugar.

  • How often: As often as your doctor recommends. You may be tested if you are a woman with type 1 diabetes who had a baby 6 to 8 weeks earlier.
  • Goal: Normal level of TSH in the blood

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

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