Routine Diabetes Check-ups
Diabetes is a progressive disease. Even if your diabetes is under control, you can still experience complications. Often these complications can begin without noticeable symptoms. That's why it’s important to schedule routine check-ups -- to make sure you’re as healthy as you feel.
Here are some routine check-ups you should schedule with your physician:
- Foot exam. Decreased circulation and changes in the blood vessels of your feet and lower legs can cause serious health complications. Even if you regularly check your feet for cuts, sores or infections, your healthcare provider should also assess them at regular check-ups. This should be done every 12 months.
- Blood pressure check. High blood pressure is often known as the “silent killer.” If you have diabetes, you’re at risk for higher blood pressure. This can increase your risk for developing heart disease; having a stroke; or experiencing eye, kidney and nerve complications. Getting your blood pressure checked can help reduce these risks. Your target blood pressure should be less than 140/90.
- Hemoglobin A1c screening. The A1c test measures your average glucose level for the previous three months. Making sure your A1c is less than 7 percent can help you keep your risk for complications lower. This test should be done every three to six months.
- Dental exam. If you have diabetes, you may be at a higher-than-normal risk for developing periodontal (gum) disease, an infection of your gums and bones that hold your teeth in place. Good blood glucose control, and regularly scheduled dental exams, is key to preventing mouth problems. Make sure you have a dental exam every six months. More frequent exams may be needed if you have periodontal disease.
- Dilated retinal exam. When your blood sugar levels are too high for too long, changes can occur in the blood vessels of your retina, the light sensitive tissue in the back of your eye. This is known as diabetic retinopathy. Left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness. A dilated retinal exam can help spot trouble early. If you have type I diabetes, you should have your first eye exam within 5 years of diabetes onset. If you have type II diabetes, you should have your first eye exam shortly after diagnosis.
- Kidney function screening. Consistently elevated levels of glucose in your blood can damage your kidneys. Over time, your kidneys can “leak” abnormal amounts of protein from your blood into your urine, which can lead to kidney disease. Regularly scheduled kidney function screenings can help catch these “leaks” and may slow down, or even stop, the progression to kidney disease. If you have type I diabetes, you should begin screening 5 years after diagnosis; or if you have type II diabetes, you should begin screening upon diagnosis. In either case, the screening should be completed every year.
- Cholesterol check. If you have diabetes, you are twice as likely to develop heart disease, so you should have your cholesterol checked annually. Glucose in your blood can cause an LDL (“bad” cholesterol) buildup in your arteries, leaving less space for blood to flow. This can lead to chest pain or a heart attack. A healthy LDL level is less than 100 mg/dL, or less than 70 mg/dL if you’ve already had a heart attack, or are already at high-risk for heart disease.
- Vaccines. Diabetes, even if it’s well-managed, can make it harder for your immune system to fight infections. So, you may be at risk for more serious complications from illnesses than those who do not have diabetes. Talk with your healthcare providers to make certain you’re up-to-date on these vaccines:
- Influenza (flu). Some illnesses, like the flu can raise your blood glucose to dangerously high levels. That’s why you should get a flu vaccine every year.
- Hepatitis B. People who have diabetes tend to have higher rates of hepatitis B. Getting this vaccine series can help protect you against hepatitis B.
- Pneumococcal. People who have diabetes are at increased risk for death from pneumonia and other serious infections. Certain types of pneumonia can be prevented by getting a pneumococcal vaccine (one-time dose over age 65, or one time revaccination if you received one dose five years or more prior to age 65).
- Weight measurement check. If you’re overweight and have type II diabetes, losing even 10 to 15 pounds can help lower your blood sugar and blood pressure, improve your cholesterol levels and ease stress on your hips, knees, ankles and feet. And you’ll feel better overall. Work with your healthcare provider to develop a safe plan for weight loss, or contact a Parkview registered dietitian nutritionist for a personal meal planning consultation.