Tests to Expect When Managing Diabetes

If you’ve been recently diagnosed with diabetes, you’re probably wondering what to expect. Your doctor may recommend certain new tests to help monitor your condition. Here’s what you need to know about these exams—what they are, what they detect, and how they help keep your diabetes under control.

Foot Exam

Diabetes can cause several foot problems, according to the American Diabetes Association. It can reduce blood circulation, making cuts harder to heal. Nerve damage—also called neuropathy—can make it more difficult to feel pain, so you might not realize you have a foot injury. Left untreated, the injury can lead to an infection. These infections are often the cause of foot or leg amputations in people with diabetes.

Every year, your doctor should take a thorough look at your feet to check for problems and care for any foot issues before they become too severe.

Outside of the doctor’s office, you can keep your feet healthy by:

•Washing and drying your feet every day

•Wearing shoes and socks at all times

•Regularly checking for cuts or blisters

•Using a gentle moisturizer, but not between your toes

Talk with your doctor right away if you notice any cuts, ingrown toe nails, or other changes to your feet.

Kidney Test

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure, contributing to roughly 44 percent of all new cases. The National Institutes of Health estimates the number of Americans living with diabetes-related kidney failure at more than 180,000.

Your doctor will perform one or both of these tests to see how well your kidneys are functioning:

•ACR: The albuminuria-to-creatinine ratio (ACR) measures the amount of a certain protein—albumin—in your urine. Too much albumin in the urine is usually an indication of kidney disease.

•GFR: The glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is a measure of how well your kidneys remove waste from your blood. A lower score signals a loss of kidney function: 90 or above indicates that your kidneys are functioning normally, while 15 or below indicates kidney failure.

Cholesterol and Triglyceride Test

Having diabetes can make you prone to high cholesterol. A condition called diabetic dyslipidemia increases your “bad” cholesterol, or LDL, levels while lowering your “good” cholesterol, or HDL, levels. This condition raises your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Have your doctor check your cholesterol and triglycerides every year. You may have heard that your “bad” cholesterol should be below a certain number, but the American Heart Association says that is no longer the case. Instead, your doctor will look at your total cholesterol, a number that factors in your LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels. A score less than 180 mg/dL is ideal.

A1C Test

Some diabetes-related tests are so important, they need to be scheduled more than once per year. Your A1C test, for example, should happen at least every six months, according to the American Diabetes Association.

The A1C test tells you your average blood glucose level over the past three months. Unlike your daily monitoring, which can fluctuate depending on factors like time of day and whether you’ve eaten recently, the A1C paints a more accurate picture of your overall blood glucose levels.

An A1C result of 7 percent is ideal for most people, but talk with your doctor to see if you should aim for a different goal.

Take Control

Between tests, there’s a lot you can do to take charge and keep yourself healthy. For instance:

•Quit smoking: People who smoke with diabetes are much more prone to serious issues, including problems with your heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves.

•Get physical: Regular activity helps your body process insulin better and lowers your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.

•Eat well: A healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and poultry can also help your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol.


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