Treat Yourself Right by Staying on Top of Your Health Tests

Treat Yourself Right by Staying on Top of Your Health Tests

Treat Yourself Right by Staying on Top of Your Health Tests

Most people don’t like to go get health screenings and tests. But there are some tests you really want to take. The ones that might help your health. The ones 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.

Regular tests are especially vital if you have diabetes. Without proper control, your health is at risk.

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 grow. 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 health 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 A1c test shows average blood sugar levels over the previous two to three months. It shows how well your diabetes is controlled. Not everyone knows their A1c number or grasps what it means. You may think your sugars are under control because you look at one daily blood sugar check taken at the same time of day every day. But if you don’t happen to be testing at a time of day when your blood sugar level is high, you may not get the whole picture. That’s why the A1c test is important — it does show the whole picture.

Eye Exams
People with diabetes face eye problems that can lead to eyesight loss. A yearly eye exam can help catch those problems early. Diabetes can cause an eye problem called diabetic retinopathy. It causes harm to the eye’s retina, a thin layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye. When light strikes the retina, it sends a signal to the brain that is turned into images.

Warning signs of diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Blurred eyesight
  • Spots in your vision
  • A hole in the core of your field of vision

In the early stages, there are often no signs. That’s why it’s so important to have an eye exam each year.

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. If you find out early, you can handle what’s causing it earlier. 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
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 every day could save you from serious complications. Reach out to your doctor with any concerns. You may be referred to a podiatrist for more care.

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.

Know Your A1c

You know you need to check your blood sugar regularly, but do you know you also need an A1c test? Blood glucose numbers only give a quick snapshot of blood sugar control. For a more in-depth picture, you need to know your hemoglobin A1cleaving site icon

It gives you information about your average blood sugar levels over the last two or three months. It even measures what your blood sugar was when you were asleep.

Why Does A1c Matter?

It’s vital to know your average levels over time. High levels are linked to serious health problems leaving site icon and long-term complications, including eye, kidney, nerve and heart disease. These health problems can happen slowly, without you knowing it. Even a small improvement in your A1c level can significantly reduce your risk for complications.

What Can Change Your A1c?
Some things that can make your number go up or down:

  • Drugs such as opioids, steroids and statins and medicines for HIV, anxiety and depression
  • Pregnancy, both in the early and late stages
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver disease
  • Severe anemia

What If My A1c Is Out of Target Range?
First, talk to your doctor. You can work together to set goals and reach those goals. But your team includes others, leaving site icon too. You may work with a:

  • Nurse educator
  • Registered dietitian
  • Eye doctor
  • Certified diabetes educator
  • Endocrinologist who specializes in treating diabetes
  • Foot doctor
  • Dentist
  • Pharmacist

Support from Your Team
Your team can coach, support and empower you through all your challenges. But remember that your health depends on you. Diabetes calls for a lifetime of learning and relearning. It is all a part of the process of living with diabetes.

Sources: Diabetes tests and checkups, leaving site icon U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2021; At a glance: Diabetic Retinopathy, leaving site icon National Eye Institute, NIH, 2021; 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, 2014; 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: A1c does it all, leaving site icon ADA

Originally published October 15, 2019; Revised 2020, 2021