If you have diabetes, taking care of yourself at home and getting regular checkups are key to staying healthy.
During office visits, your doctor will do tests to try to find any problems so they can be treated before they become bigger issues. If you find them early enough, most can be managed with diet, exercise, or medication.
This blood test tells you and your doctor how your blood sugar has been over the past 2 to 3 months. While you probably test it every day, that only shows what your levels are at that point in time. The result is given as a percentage – the higher the percentage, the higher your blood sugar levels have been. The goal is for your A1C level to be less than 7%.
The American Diabetes Association recommends you have this test at least twice a year.
You should check your blood pressure regularly at home. But your doctor also will check it each time you visit the office. You can have high blood pressure without knowing it. Generally, your first number (systolic) should be less than 120. Your second number (diastolic) should be under 80. If you have high blood pressure and it's not managed well, for instance with lifestyle changes or medication, you're more likely to have heart disease or a stroke.
Cholesterol & Triglycerides
These types of fat can collect in your arteries and lead to heart problems and stroke. Your doctor will want to check three things with a blood test at least once a year: HDL ("good") cholesterol, LDL ("bad") cholesterol, and triglycerides. You'll want your LDL level to be less than 100 and your triglyceride level to be under 150. On the flip side, a man's HDL should be higher than 40, and a woman's should be over 50.
High blood sugar levels can lead to higher levels of cholesterol. Talk with your doctor about where your numbers are and where they should be.
Kidney Function Test
This test measures a kind of protein called albumin (or microalbumin) with a urine test. If high blood sugar and blood pressure damage your kidneys, albumin leaks out. You should have this test at least once a year.
Your doctor also may give you a GFR (glomerular filtration rate) test that can tell you if your kidneys are filtering your blood as they should.
Your doctor should check your feet thoroughly at least once a year. Over time, diabetes can cause nerve damage. This can make you lose feeling in your feet. If that happens, you may not notice cuts, bruises, or other problems. If they're not treated, these can become bigger problems. The condition can also limit the blood flow to your feet. That makes it harder for a sore or infection to heal.
Being overweight may be one of the reasons you developed diabetes. It can also make the condition worse. Like blood pressure and blood sugar, you should check your weight at home. But your doctor will also want to get a reading at every office visit. It's easier to control your blood sugar and blood pressure if you're at a healthy weight.
Flu Shot and Other Vaccinations
Most adults should get a flu shot every fall. That's especially true if you have diabetes. The condition weakens your immune system so it's harder for your body to fight off infections. Also, it can be harder to control your blood sugar when you're sick.
Your doctor also might recommend the pneumococcal vaccine. It protects you against infections caused by the pneumococcus bacteria like pneumonia, meningitis, and some ear infections.
Talk with your doctor about other vaccines you may need. They might include:
- Hepatitis B
- Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis)
- Zoster (shingles)
- MMR (measles, mumps and rubella)
- Varicella (chicken pox)
- HPV (human papillomavirus)
Gum and Teeth Exams
Diabetes can damage the blood vessels in your mouth and lead to gum disease and tooth decay. Tell your dentist if you have diabetes and have a checkup every 6 months to keep an eye out for any problems.
Dilated Eye Exam
Be sure to tell your eye doctor that you have diabetes. He'll give you eye drops to widen your pupil so he can see any damage to the blood vessels in your eyes. This should be done every other year.
Your doctor also may want to do a retinal eye exam. He'll take a detailed picture of your eye. This should be done every 2 years or more often if those vessels are already damaged.