Treat Yourself Right: Stay on Top of Your Diabetes Care

Treat Yourself Right: Stay on Top of Your Diabetes Care

Treat Yourself Right: Stay on Top of Your Diabetes Care

No one likes to go get health screenings and tests. But if you have diabetes, there are some tests you really need to get done. The tests that will show what steps you need to take so you don’t get sicker. The ones that can save you from much bigger problems later.

It’s critical to follow your plan of care, but it can be a lot to keep track of. Is there anything you’re forgetting? Here’s an overview of what you need to do.

See Your Doctor Regularly

Regular appointments with your health care providers will keep you on top of your blood sugar numbers and other important steps for managing your diabetes. Your doctor and other providers will monitor your overall health and guide you to a specialist if needed.

Complications often start out with a small, negative change that can easily worsen. Routine health checkups and tests allow you to find out about changes before they become serious problems. Talking with your doctor regularly also gives you the chance to:

  • Ask questions
  • Learn more about your diabetes
  • Find out what you need to do to keep your blood sugar in your target range
What Tests Do You Need?

Your doctor will help you figure out what tests you need and when. Here are some of the most important tests and exams people with diabetes need.

The hemoglobin A1C test leaving site icon is used to see how well your body is managing blood sugar. This blood test, sometimes abbreviated as HbA1c, shows your average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months. High A1C may make you more likely to have long-term complications, such as eye, kidney, nerve and heart disease. These serious health problems can be happening without you knowing it.

Find out what numbers to aim for and more about this important test.

Eye Exams
Diabetes can cause eye problems that lead to vision loss or blindness. Diabetic eye disease often has no early symptoms. So it’s important to have regular eye exams with dilation. This test checks the retinas in the back of your eyes for signs that you have diabetic retinopathy or other diabetes-related eye problems. Talk to your PCP about how often to have your dilated eye examleaving site icon

Urine and Blood Tests to Check Kidney Function
The urine test, called the albumin-to-creatinine ratio, or ACR, checks for proteins in your urine to see how well your kidneys are working. Protein in the urine is the first sign of kidney disease.

The blood test checks for levels of creatinine, a waste product, in your blood. The test result is used to find out your glomerular filtration rate, or GFR. Your GFR shows how well your kidneys are removing creatinine from your blood.

Both tests are needed to be sure your kidneys are healthy. Get these tests every year, even if you don’t have a history of kidney disease or high risk factors for it. You may have kidney problems before you feel any symptoms. Early diagnosis and treatment is important.

Blood Tests for Anemia
With diabetes, you’ll need to have regular blood checks for anemia, a low amount of red blood cells. About 25 percent of Americans with diabetes also have anemia. The risk of getting anemia grows the longer you have diabetes. Anemia can cause complications like nerve and eye damage. And it can make things like heart, artery and kidney disease — common in people with diabetes — worse.

Additional Important Steps

Take Care of Your Mental Health
Studies show that about 40 percent of people with diabetes have depression. Depression can get in the way of managing your diabetes and how you care for yourself in general. Learn what signs to watch for and what you can do about it. 

See Your Dentist
Research shows that there is a greater risk of gum disease among those with diabetes. It’s best to take good care of your teeth and gums and have dental checkups every six months.

Check Your Feet
The blood flow in your feet needs to be checked regularly. Your doctor will test the skin and nails for blood flow or nerve damage. And you should check your feet at home. Pay attention to pain, tingling or numbness in your feet, or a sore that doesn’t heal. That may signal nerve damage. Checking your feet regularly could save you from serious complications. Reach out to your doctor with any concerns.

Make Sure You're Injecting Insulin Correctly
Insulin will only work well if it is injected correctly. Whether you’re new to injecting insulin or have been injecting insulin for so long that you don’t give it a second thought, it is very important to review the right way to do it with your doctor or nurse at least once a year and when your treatment changes

Sources: Diabetes tests and checkups, leaving site icon U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2022; At a glance: Diabetic Retinopathy, leaving site icon National Eye Institute, NIH, 2022; Diabetes and Anemia: Are They Related?, leaving site icon The Diabetes Council, 2020; Peripheral Neuropathy, leaving site icon National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD), NIH, 2018; How can diabetes affect my mouth?, leaving site icon NIDDKD, 2022; Preventing Diabetes Problems, leaving site icon NIDDKD; Understanding diabetes and mental health, leaving site icon American Diabetes Association (ADA); Get to Know Your Diabetes Care Team, leaving site icon ADA; Understanding A1C, leaving site icon ADA

Originally published 10/15/2019; Revised 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023