Managing Diabetes? You Have a Partner Who Can Help

Managing Diabetes? You Have a Partner Who Can Help

If you’re living with diabetes, think of your primary care provider (PCP) as your partner in taking charge of your health. You can work together to successfully manage your diabetes so you can stay healthier.

It’s important to get the regular tests your doctor says are right for you and to always know your numbers. The U.S. National Library of Medicine says routine health checkups and tests leaving site icon give you a chance to:

  • Ask health questions.
  • Learn more about your diabetes.
  • Find out what you need to do leaving site icon to manage your diabetes and keep your blood sugar in your target range. That includes making healthy food choices and getting some exercise each day.
Five Tests to Get

There are some exams and tests you need to have regularly to make sure you’re managing your diabetes well.

1. Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c): Two to four times a year
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.

In general, if you have diabetes, an A1C of less than 8 is considered well controlled. Under 7 is very well controlled. If your number is above 8, better control is needed. And above 9 is considered very poor control. Talk to your PCP about what hemoglobin A1C number is best for you.

If your blood sugar is well controlled, it’s recommended that you get the A1C test at least twice a year. If your blood sugar is not well controlled, you may need to be tested every three months to monitor your progress.

2. Blood pressure: Every visit
Blood pressure is the force of the blood inside the vessels. The higher the pressure, the harder your heart has to work. Over time high blood pressure may harm the tiny vessels in your eyes, kidneys, legs and feet. High blood pressure is especially dangerous if you have diabetes. It increases your risk for serious complications. And high blood pressure usually has no symptoms. That’s why it’s important to have your blood pressure checked often.

3. Dilated eye exam: Every one to two years
Diabetes can cause eye problems that lead to vision loss or blindness. And diabetic eye disease often has no early symptoms. 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

4. Urine and blood tests to check your kidney function: Once a year
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.

5. Foot exam: Once a year or every visit
Your feet need to be examined leaving site icon at least once a year. Your PCP will need to test your skin and nails for blood flow or nerve damage. Pay attention to pain, tingling or numbness in your feet or a sore that doesn’t heal. Those symptoms can be signs of diabetic neuropathy.

If you have diabetic neuropathy, your feet will need to be examined more often. The doctor will check to see if the problem has gotten worse. And regular exams will help find any ulcers or wounds that you may not be able to feel.

Your Health Team

Your health depends on you. If you are not sure about what care you may need, talk with your doctor. Your PCP is your best resource to help manage and protect your health. Together, you can develop a plan that works for you.

In addition to your PCP, there are several other types of health care professionals you may work with:

  • Nurse educators
  • Registered dietitians
  • Eye doctors
  • Certified diabetes educators
  • Endocrinologists who specialize in treating diabetes
  • Foot doctors
  • Dentists
  • Pharmacists

By working with your health care team and keeping track of exam and testing results, you'll be able to control your diabetes better. Download this printable chart to track your test results.  leaving site icon

Living with Diabetes

Get more in depth information about how to manage your diabetes and why it’s so important.

Sources: Diabetes Tests and Checkups, leaving site icon U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2022; Your Health Care Team, leaving site icon American Diabetes Association; Living with Diabetes, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022; Know Your Kidney Numbers: Two Simple Tests, leaving site icon National Kidney Foundation; Get a Dilated Eye Exam, leaving site icon National Eye Institute, 2021

Originally published 12/6/2021; Revised 2022, 2023