Learning About Tests When Your Child Has Diabetes

Skip to the navigation

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, size, and whether he or she has type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The tests your child may have include these listed here.

A1c blood test: This test shows the average level of your child's blood sugar over the past 2 to 3 months. It helps the doctor determine whether blood sugar levels have been staying within your child's target range.

  • How often: At least every 6 months
  • Goal: A blood sugar level in your child's target range. The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends:
    • Less than 8.0% for children younger than 6 years old with type 1 diabetes.
    • 7.5% or less for children 6 to 12 years old with type 1 diabetes.
    • 7.0% or less for teens 13 to 18 years old with type 1 diabetes.
    • 7.0% or less for most children and adolescents with type 2 diabetes.

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. 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
  • Goal: No protein in the urine

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 his or her 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: Your child's dentist will recommend how often to have routine checkups. Most children should see their dentist once or twice a year.
  • 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. Too little thyroid hormone can cause some medicines (like insulin) to stay in the body longer.

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

Celiac disease: This test checks for a problem some people have with foods that contain gluten.

  • How often: For type 1 diabetes, if your child has symptoms of celiac disease, your child's doctor will recommend screening.
  • Goal: No celiac disease antibodies are found in your child's blood.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and 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.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter I148 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About Tests When Your Child Has Diabetes".