7 Essential Medical Tests for People With Diabetes

  • Female doctor with male patient looking at results
    Avoiding the Collateral Damage of Diabetes
    Diabetes increases your risk for many health problems. It can harm your eyes, kidneys, feet, gums, skin, heart and more. The damage can start even before you notice symptoms. Medical tests often can catch problems early. Then, your doctor can start treatment before small problems become serious health issues. Read on to see what tests might help you.
  • blood-sugar-test
    1. A1c Test
    This test shows your average blood sugar level for the past three months. It helps you and your doctor manage your condition and figure out your treatment plan. You should probably have this test at least twice a year. You will get the results as a percentage. The goal is to keep the percentage low. A higher number means higher blood sugar levels. For people with diabetes, an ideal A1c is below 7%. For each 1% drop in your A1c number, your risk of eye, kidney or nerve problems falls by 40%.
  • Podiatrist with Patient
    2. Foot Exam
    Nerve damage from diabetes can cause numbness in your feet. You could have a cut or blister and not feel it. Your diabetes doctor should check your feet at every visit. This can help prevent minor wounds from becoming serious health issues. You should also get a complete foot exam at least once a year. If you have an infection, your doctor may order X-rays. They will show if the infection has spread to your bone. It’s a good idea to avoid walking barefoot and to check your own feet for any injuries every night before bed.
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    3. Blood Pressure Check
    Your doctor should check your blood pressure at every visit. The first number (systolic pressure) is the pressure when your heart beats. The second number (diastolic pressure) is the pressure between heartbeats. A healthy blood pressure is lower than 120/80. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. High blood pressure affects two out of three people with diabetes. It causes your heart to work harder. It also can increase your risk of damage to your eyes, brain, kidneys, heart, and blood vessels. Lowering your blood pressure makes you less likely to have a heart attack or stroke
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    4. Lipid Profile
    Diabetes is linked to high LDL cholesterol. That's the bad kind of cholesterol. It also can cause high triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood). This can cause your blood vessels to become narrow or clogged. Healthy cholesterol levels, though, can dramatically decrease your chance of having heart problems. Get your cholesterol checked at least once a year. Your total cholesterol should be under 200 mg/dL. Ideally, your LDL cholesterol should be less than 70 mg/dL. Your HDL should be 50 mg/dL or higher. Your triglyceride levels should be less than 150 mg/dL. 
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    5. Kidney Function Tests
    Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease. Damaged kidneys do not do a good job of filtering waste and extra fluids. Without treatment, this can lead to kidney failure. To check for kidney problems, you should have two tests. A urine albumin test will show if your kidneys are leaking protein, an early sign of kidney disease. Your doctor will also measure your creatinine level with a blood test. Levels rise if your kidneys are not working well. A creatinine level of more than 1.2 for women and 1.4 for men could be an early sign of kidney problems. Have both of these tests at least once a year.
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    6. Eye Exam
    Diabetes is a major cause of blindness. It also increases your risk of other eye problems, such as glaucoma and damage to the retina (diabetic retinopathy). Get regular eye exams to catch problems early. It’s not enough to have your eyeglass prescription checked by an optician. See an eye specialist (optometrist or ophthalmologist) at least once a year for a dilated eye exam. During this exam, the eye doctor will put drops in your eyes to dilate them. Dilation opens up your pupils so the doctor can check for signs of retinopathy. 
  • man undergoing dental exam
    7. Dental Checkup
    Diabetes can increase your risk of infection and other problems in your mouth. High blood sugar levels help harmful germs grow. This can lead to cavities and gum disease. Gum disease is harder to treat if you have diabetes. Plus, having gum disease can make it harder to keep your blood sugar levels under control. Bleeding and swollen gums are signs of gum disease. The best way to protect your mouth is to see a dentist twice a year for a cleaning and checkup.
  • woman on laptop
    Learn More
    Learning about diabetes is the first step to managing the condition. It also will help you work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan and prevent complications. The key is to keep an eye on what is going on with your body. Let your doctor know when something seems amiss. Other articles that can help:

7 Essential Medical Tests for People With Diabetes
  1. Stay Healthy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/health.html
  2. Foot Complications. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/foot-complications/
  3. Foot Care. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/foot-complications/foot-care.html
  4. The A1C Test and Diabetes. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/diagnostic-tests/a1c-test-diabetes/Pages/i...
  5. What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean. American Heart Association.  http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/AboutCholesterol/What-Your-Cholesterol-Levels-Mean_UCM_305562_Article.jsp
  6. High Blood Pressure. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/are-you-at-risk/lower-your-risk/bloodpressure.html
  7. Prevent diabetes problems: Keep your kidneys healthy. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Diabetes/prevent-diabetes-problems/Pages/k...
  8. Understanding Your Lab Values. National Kidney Foundation. https://www.kidney.org/kidneydisease/understandinglabvalues
  9. Tests to Measure Kidney Function, Damage and Detect Abnormalities. National Kidney Foundation. https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/kidneytests
  10. Eye Care. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/eye-complications/eye-care.html
  11. Eye Complications. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/eye-complications/
  12. What is a comprehensive dilated eye exam? National Institutes of Health. National Eye Institute. https://nei.nih.gov/healthyeyes/eyeexam
  13. Diabetes Complications. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 31
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.