Diabetes is a progressive disease. Even if your diabetes is in total control, you can still experience complications. Often, these complications can begin without noticeable symptoms. Therefore, it's important to go for regular check-ups to make sure that all systems are A-OK.
Here are the bases that should be covered.
- Hemoglobin A1c
- Creatinine and BUN levels
- Cholesterol levels
- Blood pressure
- Feet and lower extremities check
Hemoglobin A1cThe A1c test will tell you your average blood glucose level for the previous three months. Making sure that your A1c is in your target range helps you keep your risk for complications lower. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends an A1c of less than 7%, while the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) advises an A1c of less than 6.5%. The normal range for people without diabetes is between 4% and 6%.
Creatinine and Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) levelsBlood tests can show how your kidneys are functioning. Creatinine and BUN are waste substances that are dumped into the blood by cells for excreting by the kidneys. When the kidneys aren't working as well, these can build up in the blood, forcing levels to rise.
Cholesterol Levels: HDL, LDL and TriglyceridesWhy check your cholesterol? Because people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop heart disease. Glucose in the blood can slow down the LDLs ("bad" cholesterol) which makes them sticky. This causes cholesterol to build up much faster on blood vessel walls. Cholesterol-lowering medications are usually prescribed earlier for people with diabetes to prevent complications of heart disease.
Blood PressureHigh blood pressure is known as the "silent killer." People with diabetes tend to have trouble with high blood pressure, too. Having both diabetes and high blood pressure can cause an increase in the risk of heart disease, stroke, and eye, kidney and nerve complications. Blood pressure medications keep the risks down.
Feet and Lower ExtremitiesDecreased circulation and changes in the blood vessels of your feet and lower legs can cause serious problems. Even though you should check your feet daily for cuts, sores, or infections, your health care provider should also assess them at your check-up visit. A microfilament exam can detect decreased sensation. If cuts and sores become infected, the complications can be devastating. The risk of gangrene increases as circulation becomes compromised and the body can't fight off infection. Amputation of the affected limb is often the result.
EyesWhen blood glucose levels remain too high for a long period of time, changes can occur in the tiny blood vessels that supply the retina of the eye. This is called retinopathy. Damage isn't always easy to detect, so getting your eyes checked regularly can help spot trouble before it gets out of hand. If retinopathy is not treated, it can lead to blindness. Anytime that you notice strange blotches, blurriness, or dark spots in your vision, you should make an appointment with an eye doctor immediately.
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Sources:"Diabetes." Lab Tests Online. 30 Apr 2006. American Association for Clinical Chemistry. 26 Jul 2007.
"Your Kidneys and How They Work." National Kidney and Urologic Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC). Nov 2005. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). 26 Jul 2007.
"What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean." American Heart Association. 26 Jul 2007. American Heart Association. 26 Jul 2007.