|What Tests Do I Need To Manage My Condition?
If you or someone you care for has recently received a diabetes diagnosis, you may wonder what sort of tests and monitoring are likely to be recommended in order to manage your disease. Diabetes is a serious disease and treatment is a life-long commitment. As well as making lifestyle adjustments and in some instances taking medications or insulin shots, you will also need to undergo regular tests to check that your blood sugar levels are being controlled. Doing so is important as it will help delay the onset of (or completely prevent) many unpleasant diabetes complications such as kidney disease, eye problems and foot diseases (images). Here are the top 10 tests you should inform yourself about, some need to be performed more regularly than others:
1. Glucose Monitoring
All diabetics need to monitor their blood sugar levels everyday and those who are insulin dependent usually need to test 4 or 5 times a day. Blood glucose monitoring is performed with glucose monitors. These are small handheld devices that require you to place a drop of blood on a test strip which is then measured for glucose. Testing allows you to respond quickly to high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) or low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Possible responses include eating something, exercising or taking an insulin shot. Your healthcare team will help you plan the correct response. Do check out our article on insulin pens - making life a little easier. And check our guide to buying glucose monitors as well as our article, what is a normal blood sugar count?
2. Hemoglobin A1C Test
Frequency: 4 times a year if you take insulin and twice a year if you don't.
The hemoglobin A1C test is a slightly more recent blood test to the market. It helps to track your blood sugar levels over the past 3 months. While daily glucose monitoring is good at letting you know how your levels are at one moment in any given day, it doesn't give the bigger picture. The A1C test in comparison reflects your glucose control over 90 days. It can be carried out by your doctor or alternatively you can buy a home kit from most pharmacies - one was launched by Bayer Metrika called A1C Now. Do be sure to note your results if you take a home test and report them to your doctor.
3. GlycoMark Test
Frequency: No recommendations yet.
This is a new generation FDA approved blood test which may eventually overtake the A1C test. It also measures blood glucose levels but is even more sensitive because it monitors over 2 weeks rather than 3 months. This allows patients with irregular results to get diabetes treatment in a more timely manner.
4. Kidney Damage Test
Frequency: Immediately on diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and within 5 years of being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Annually thereafter in both cases.
This test checks for abnormal levels of protein in your urine called microalbuminuria. The presence of these proteins is an early sign that high glucose is starting to affect your kidneys. If you test positive your doctor will prescribe ACE inhibitor drugs to correct the situation before any damage occurs.
5 .Eye Test
Frequency: Once a year.
All people with diabetes need to have their eyes checked annually by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. This test cannot be performed by a doctor or endocrinologist (diabetes specialist). Several drops of solution will be put into your eyes and the optometrist uses various instruments to examine the health of the retina and lens. If your doctor doesn't mention this test - organize it yourself. It is important.
6. Feet Test
Diabetics are prone to foot problems which often lead to amputation. For this reason, it is important to look after your feet. Your doctor should examine them on every visit, but you should check for problems everyday as well. Once every 4 or 5 years your doctor should also perform an ankle-brachial index test. This is a blood pressure test but instead of being taken on the arm it is taken on the ankle. A result of 0.9 or above is considered normal, between 0.4 and 0.9 suggests peripheral vascular disease and a value less than 0.4 indicates serious disease.
7. Blood Pressure Test
Frequency: At every doctor visit.
Your doctor should take a blood pressure reading at every visit to check for symptoms of hypertension. People with diabetes are prone to high blood pressure because they are more sensitive to salt and their blood pressure doesn't fall at nighttime like it does with non-diabetics. Your blood pressure should be no more than 130/80.
8. Cholesterol Tests
Frequency: Once a year.
You should have a fasting lipid panel which gives you your total cholesterol, your 'bad' LDL cholesterol, your 'good' HDL cholesterol and your triglycerides levels. High cholesterol raises your stroke risk factors and your heart attack risk factors.
9. Ketones Testing
Frequency: If necessary
Women with gestational diabetes and those whose glucose levels rise above 250 mg/dl (13.9 mmol/L) should check for ketones. Finding ketones means that you probably need more insulin. It is a simple test, done by inserting a special test strip into your urine. Alternatively you can buy a glucose monitor which also has a facility for checking ketones (such as the Precision Xtra).
10. TSH Testing
Frequency: Once when diagnosed with diabetes and every 5 years thereafter.
As diabetics are prone to developing thyroid disease they should be screened for TSH levels. TSH is a hormone, and high levels are a sign of thyroid disease.