Uncontrolled diabetes can damage the small blood vessels and nerves of the body, including those in the brain, eyes, heart, kidneys, and feet. This is why routine tests and checkups are especially important.
Diabetes is the leading cause of adult blindness in the United States. People with diabetes should see their eye doctor every year to check for any signs of retinopathy, or injury to the retina (the back of the eye).
Many people with diabetes suffer from neuropathy, or injury to the nerves, which typically begins with slight numbness in the feet. This loss of sensation means that many people with diabetes do not feel small foot injuries, and risk frequent infections. Because diabetes is the leading cause of non-traumatic foot amputations in the United States, people with diabetes should have their feet examined by their family doctor at each visit.
Diabetes is the leading cause of permanent kidney failure in the United States. This leads to dialysis, a process in which a person requires a machine to filter their blood several times per week. To prevent kidney damage (nephropathy), all people with diabetes should have a yearly microalbumin urine test to check for early signs of diabetic injury to the kidneys.
Controlling your cholesterol levels can help reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. All people with diabetes should have a cholesterol test at least once a year. The LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or "bad" cholesterol) reading should be less than 100 for an average diabetic, but it may need to be even less if you have a history of heart disease.
Blood sugar test
The hemoglobin A1c, or glycohemoglobin, test measures your average blood sugar for the previous three months. The goal number for this test is less than 7%. Patients with a level consistently greater than 8% may need to be seen by a specialist, since this level can lead to serious injury. All people with diabetes should have this test at least once per year. For those with high readings, blood sugar is usually checked every three months until it is in the normal range.
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