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Diabetes: Tests to Watch for Complications
The table below summarizes many of the tests that can be done to identify complications from diabetes, including those tests done during a physical exam. The physical exam evaluates your overall health. The doctor pays special attention to your eyes, blood vessels, heart, lungs, nerves, abdomen, and feet.
Organ or condition
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What it shows
High blood sugar
Every 3 to 6 months, have a hemoglobin A1c test.
How steady your blood sugar levels have been over time
Less than 7% for most nonpregnant adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and children with type 2 diabetes
Less than 7.5% for youth younger than 18 years old with type 1 diabetes
(Your goal may be lower or higher, based on your health and age.)
High blood pressure
Every 3 to 6 months when you visit your doctor, have your blood pressure checked. If you don't see your doctor that often, at least have your blood pressure checked once a year.
Pressure of blood flow in your arteries
Your doctor will give you a goal based on your health and your age.
Every year, have your urine checked for the protein albumin. Also, have your blood checked for the waste product creatinine.
A glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is usually calculated using a formula that includes a person's age, gender, race, and blood creatinine level.
Whether kidney disease is developing
Less than 30 mg/g of protein in your urine
GFR 90 mL/min or above
Every year, visit an ophthalmologist or an optometrist for a dilated eye exam (ophthalmoscopy). Some doctors may recommend less frequent eye exams (for example, every 2 years) if you have no signs of diabetic retinopathy.
Whether retinopathy (damage to back of the eye) has developed
No retinal damage
Every 3 to 6 months when you visit your doctor, take off your socks so you will both remember to check your feet. Once a year, get a more thorough examination of your feet. This is also known as a complete foot exam.
Whether foot ulcers have developed
Whether the person has lost any sensation
No foot ulcers or loss of sensation
Twice a year, have a dental exam.
Healthy gums and teeth
If you have high cholesterol, or if you are a woman over 50 years old, your doctor may recommend a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) blood test.
Normal thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level
Your doctor may recommend a liver function blood test, especially if you are taking a medicine that could affect your liver.
Normal liver function test
Your doctor may recommend a cholesterol test when you are first diagnosed with diabetes or at age 40.
Along with other measures, cholesterol levels can help you know your risk for heart attack or stroke.
The goal in treating cholesterol is to lower your chance of having a heart attack or a stroke. The goal is not just to lower your cholesterol numbers.
Current as of: December 19, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Matthew I. Kim MD - Endocrinology
David C.W. Lau MD, PhD, FRCPC - Endocrinology
Current as of: December 19, 2019
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