Diabetes is a condition which could affect several organs of the body and is, therefore, a risk factor for multiple health issues. Perhaps the most ideal approach to prevent or slow the progression of diabetes and its related complications is to go for routine tests and health-check-ups. Early diagnosis can also help detect the condition in its early phases and treat it before it worsens. Experts uphold that most of the complications associated with diabetes can be prevented if identified early through tests.
8 tests for better diabetes management
- HbA1C test
This test determines the average blood glucose over the past 2 to 3 months and is a measure of how well the blood glucose is being managed. When glucose builds up in the blood, it binds to the hemoglobin in the red blood cells. The A1c test measures how much glucose is present in the blood.
For people with diabetes, A1C levels need to be checked two to four times a year, based on the doctor’s recommendation. For such individuals, the ideal HbA1C is below 7%. For every 1% reduction in the HbA1c, the associated risk of eye, kidney or nerve problems also reduces by 40%.
- Blood pressure check
Diabetes and high blood pressure often occur together. Elevated blood pressure over time can damage blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrition to the heart tissue. It causes the heart to work harder, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Hence, blood pressure must be checked every 3 - 6 months when visiting the doctor or at home. Diabetics who are already diagnosed as hypertensive must check their BP more frequently. People with diabetes should aim to keep their blood pressure below 140/90 mmHg.
- Lipid profile
Diabetes is associated with high LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or bad cholesterol and high triglycerides. These cause blockage or narrowing of the arteries, which place people with diabetes at a greater risk for heart diseases. Hence, it is important to check blood cholesterol levels annually.
Target cholesterol levels:
HDL (good) cholesterol – above 40 mg/dL
LDL cholesterol – below 100 mg/dL
Triglycerides – less than 150 mg/dL
The symptoms of heart disease are often not easy to recognize and do not come with warning signs. For people with diabetes who older than 50 years, an electrocardiogram should be considered as part of routine medical tests. An electrocardiogram is a simple test that checks the heart's function by assessing the electrical activity of the heart. This test can help in the early detection of any problem linked to the heart’s electrical system.
- Eye examination
Diabetes can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina. Over time, very high blood sugar can block the tiny blood vessels that supply oxygen and nourish the retina. This increases the risk of diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and glaucoma. It is recommended that people with diabetes go for an eye examination once a year.
- Kidney function tests
Elevated blood sugar over time can cause damage to small blood vessels in the kidneys. Damaged kidneys can no longer function properly to filter waste and extra fluids. Kidney function tests are performed to check the proper functioning of the kidneys. One of the tests measures the micro-albumin (albumin protein) that the damaged kidneys leak into the urine. The other is a blood test to measure the amount of creatinine (a waste product released by muscles into the blood and removed by kidneys). A rise in the level of these two proteins is an early sign of kidney damage. It is recommended that these tests are performed at least once a year in people with diabetes.
- Foot examination
Elevated blood sugar causes damage to the nerves and blood vessels in the legs and feet, sometimes causing loss of sensation. Therefore, a regular foot examination helps to detect and prevent any minor wound or cut from becoming a serious health problem. It is advisable for people with diabetes to get their foot health checked every year. They should avoid walking barefoot and must often check for sores or cuts at home and discuss it with the doctor.
- Dental examination
The risk of gum inflammation is three times higher in people with poorly controlled diabetes. This is because high blood sugar in the saliva promotes the growth of bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria combine with food particles to form plaques. These plaques harden and collect over the gum line causing gum diseases. Hence, people with diabetes should see a dentist every 6 months and get regular cleaning of the teeth done.
Many diabetes issues can be avoided by understanding potential health risks, getting routine health tests and reversing complications early on. People with diabetes should monitor any abnormality observed and discuss it with their doctor. Your doctor may refer you to other specialists like an ophthalmologist, nephrologist, podiatrist, and dentist for a holistic diabetes management plan. These specialists can identify potential health issues in their early stages and provide the right treatment.