8 Ways Your Doctor Monitors Your Diabetes
You and your doctor work as a team to develop a diabetes treatment plan. Your doctor will continue to play a role as you carry out the plan. The ultimate goal is to control your blood glucose and lower your risk of serious health problems, including heart disease and stroke. Your role is to follow the treatment plan, including eating right, exercising, and taking your medications. Meanwhile, your doctor will conduct tests at each visit to see how well your plan is working and to spot early warning signs of complications. To monitor your diabetes control, your doctor will check:
1. Your Blood Glucose Self-Test Results
Determine when and how you’ll monitor your blood glucose at home. Your doctor will give you guidance on how often to check it. Usually, you’ll check it before and after meals and at bedtime. Keep track of your results and share your records at every visit. You can even use a glucose app to help you keep track. Search for “glucose app for iOS/Android/Windows,” depending on your operating system.
Together, you can look for patterns. Talk about the things that make your blood glucose rise too high or drop too low, such as eating habits, exercise, or stress. Then develop a plan to avoid those situations during your day. Be up front with your doctor if you’re having trouble in these areas.
2. Your A1c Levels
At least twice a year, your doctor will do a blood test called hemoglobin A1c. Like home self-tests, A1c measures your blood glucose. But unlike other tests, which offer a snapshot of your glucose levels at one moment in time, the A1c test tells your doctor your average blood glucose levels over the previous 2 to 3 months. This is a big-picture view of how well your treatment is working.
The results come either as a percentage or an average glucose number (eAG). Experts typically recommend an A1c of 7% or an eAG of 154 mg/dL. Your doctor will tell you what target you should aim for, and suggest changes to your treatment plan if you don’t reach it.
3. Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when blood pushes against the walls of your veins and arteries with too much force. This makes your heart work harder to move blood through your body. Over time, your risk of having a heart attack or stroke increases.
About 2 out of 3 people with diabetes have hypertension. But many don’t know it, as the condition usually has no symptoms. Your doctor will check your blood pressure at every visit. If your results are above 120/80, he or she will work with you on a plan to lower it. This may include changes to your diet, exercise or medications.
4. Your Cholesterol
At least once every 5 years, your doctor will run a blood test to check your levels of blood fats, called cholesterol. Like blood pressure, these numbers tell your doctor about your risk for future heart problems.
High levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides increase your chances of heart attack or stroke, as do low levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol. Exercising, losing weight, eating more fresh produce and whole grains, and taking medications can bring your numbers back into the optimal range.
5. Your Weight
You’ll step on the scale at every doctor’s visit. If you’re heavy, he or she can help you work on a plan to lose weight. Shedding just a few extra pounds can help control your blood glucose and prevent other health problems. Sometimes losing weight can help people with type 2 diabetes reduce their medication dosage—or allow them to stop taking medication altogether.
6. Your Kidney Function
High blood glucose and high blood pressure can damage the delicate blood vessels in your kidneys. Impaired kidneys can’t do as good a job of filtering waste products from your blood into your urine.
At least once per year, your doctor will do tests to check how well your kidneys are working. These include a blood test to see if waste products are building up, and urine tests to see if proteins that should stay in your body are leaking out. These tests can spot kidney disease early, when treatment will help.
7. Your Feet
Diabetes reduces blood flow to your feet, slowing healing of blisters and sores. And nerve damage can prevent you from feeling pain related to these conditions. You may not realize you need treatment until you have a serious wound.
Your doctor will check your feet at each visit and do a thorough foot exam at least once per year. Catching and treating foot sores early can prevent more serious problems, including infections and amputations.
8. Your Need for Emergency Care
Some diabetes complications develop slowly over years. But others can quickly become life-threatening emergencies. This includes extremely high blood glucose and ketoacidosis, a condition that occurs when your body runs out of glucose and begins burning fat for energy. Visiting the emergency room for a diabetes-related condition tells your doctor that your blood glucose levels aren’t under control.
It is much easier and cheaper to control your blood glucose and other medical conditions than to treat diabetes complications. But you’re not alone. Controlling diabetes is really a partnership between you and your doctor. You both have a responsibility to track the important numbers and look for other signs and symptoms of problems before they get out of control.
Your doctor will work with you to create a diabetes treatment plan and will monitor your progress. The goal is to control your blood glucose and lower your risk of serious health problems.
You will measure your blood glucose levels at home, and your doctor will also perform a blood test called hemoglobin A1c at least twice a year. This test gives a big-picture view of your blood glucose levels over a period of 2-3 months.
Other things your doctor will check include your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, kidney function, and the condition of your feet.