Blood sugar level monitoring is one of the most important aspects of diabetes management. However, Type 2 Diabetes can affect various other aspects of your health too. Find out more about the tests and check-ups you need to get done on a regular basis if you have diabetes.
These days, most of us know someone who has Type 2 Diabetes or we may even have it ourselves. Type 2 Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that can cause several physiological changes in your body. So it is crucial to get regular check-ups and tests for diabetes in order to prevent diabetes complications from affecting your health.
In this article, we will discuss the top tests for diabetes, tests that need to be done on a regular basis after you have been diagnosed with diabetes, and the frequency at which you should get them done.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 Diabetes is a metabolic condition that affects your body’s ability to utilize insulin properly. Your pancreas produces a hormone called insulin that helps regulate how your body stores and uses glucose (sugar).
Your body obtains glucose by digesting carbohydrates in food. This glucose is used by your cells to generate energy. Insulin acts like a key to let glucose enter your cells where it can be converted into energy.
When your pancreas is not producing the right amount of insulin or your cells are not able to use insulin to break down glucose effectively, it can lead to an increase in your blood glucose levels.
Click here to read more about the causes, risk factors, symptoms, and management of Type 2 Diabetes.
What is the Importance of Regular Check-ups and Lab Tests for Diabetes Patients?
Persistently high blood glucose levels can lead to several serious and life-altering health complications, which is why it is important to manage your diabetes.
High blood glucose levels can make your blood vessels stiff and lead to the build-up of plaque (accumulation of cholesterol, fatty substances, debris, etc.) in the inner lining of the walls of your blood vessels. This can make your blood vessels become clogged and narrow, which reduces or cuts off the blood supply to your tissues, organs, and nerves.
The severity of these complications can be reduced (or avoided) by maintaining target blood glucose levels and getting regular check-ups and examinations done.
Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosis Tests
Your doctor may prescribe certain tests to confirm the diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes. The following are the top 4 tests used for diabetes diagnosis
1. Fasting Blood Sugar (FBS) Test
The fasting blood sugar test, also known as the fasting glucose test, measures the amount of glucose present in your blood after fasting for 8 to 12 hours or overnight.
When the fasting glucose levels fall outside the normal range, it indicates that your pancreas is not producing sufficient amounts of insulin, or that your cells are unable to effectively use the insulin produced.
The following blood glucose level values are the suggested diagnostic criteria used to detect prediabetes and diabetes by the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
|Fasting Blood Sugar Level
|< 100 mg/dL
|100 – 125 mg/dL
|> 125 mg/dL
2. Random Blood Sugar Test (RBS)
The random blood glucose (RBS) test or the random plasma glucose test measures the amount of glucose present in your blood at the time your blood is drawn. This test does not require you to fast or eat a meal.
Like the FBS test, random blood glucose test is also used to detect abnormal blood sugar levels.
The following blood glucose level values are the suggested diagnostic criteria used to detect prediabetes and diabetes by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).
|Random Blood Sugar Level
|< 200 mg/dL
|> 200 mg/dL
Unlike the other diagnostic tests for diabetes, the RBS test can be used by doctors or healthcare professionals to detect hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels) in case of emergencies before initiating treatment.
3. Glycosylated Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) Test
The glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) test, also known as the A1C test, is a blood test that can be used to screen and diagnose prediabetes and diabetes. This test does not require fasting and measures the percentage of glucose that is attached to hemoglobin in the blood.
Hemoglobin is the protein present in red blood cells that carry oxygen to different organs. Glycosylated or glycated hemoglobin is formed when the glucose present in your blood attaches itself to hemoglobin. The A1C test measures the average blood glucose levels in the body over 2-3 months, as that is the average lifespan of red blood cells.
The following A1C levels are the diagnostic criteria suggested by the ADA to detect prediabetes and diabetes.
4. Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)
The oral glucose tolerance test,OGTT), also known simply as the glucose tolerance test, is performed to assess how your body metabolizes glucose. This test is commonly used to diagnose diabetes, prediabetes, and gestational diabetes.
You will be asked not to eat anything overnight and drink only water about 10 to 12 hours before this test.
Your healthcare provider will draw your blood before beginning the test to establish your fasting blood sugar levels. Next, you will be asked to drink about 250 to 300 ml of water with 75 g of glucose in it. Your blood sugar levels will be checked again after 2 hours of drinking the glucose solution.
This test helps your doctor figure out how your body is utilizing insulin to move glucose from your bloodstream to your cells and tissues.
The following blood sugar levels suggested by the ADA are used as diagnostic criteria to detect prediabetes and diabetes.
|Blood Sugar Levels After 2 hrs
|< 140 mg/dL
|140 – 200 mg/dL
|> 200 mg/dL
Important Tests and Check-ups for Type 2 Diabetes Patients
The following tests are often prescribed by diabetologists and physicians to monitor your health and to prevent complications associated with diabetes.
1. HbA1c Test
Apart from diagnosis, the glycosylated hemoglobin test is also used to monitor the effectiveness of your diabetes treatment. Your doctor may prescribe this test to evaluate how effective a particular medicine or lifestyle change is in controlling your condition, and design your treatment plan accordingly.
The ADA recommends maintaining an HbA1c level of below 7% for someone with diabetes. If you have diabetes, you must have your HbA1c levels checked every 3 months, or as frequently as recommended by your doctor.
2. Blood Pressure Examination
High blood sugar levels can damage your arteries and cause them to become stiff and narrow. This can lead to an increase in your blood pressure. If you have diabetes, you are more likely to develop hypertension.
According to the ADA, the target blood pressure level for someone with diabetes is < 140/90 mm Hg (and < 130/80 mmHg if you are at an increased risk for heart disease).
Having both diabetes and hypertension can increase your chances of developing complications like stroke, heart diseases, kidney diseases, problems with your vision, etc. You should get your blood pressure checked every time you visit your diabetologist or physician.
You can also measure your blood pressure at home regularly using a digital BP monitor.
3. Lipid Profile
The lipid profile is a blood test that analyzes the total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad cholesterol), high-density lipoprotein (HDL or good cholesterol), and triglyceride levels in your body.
When your cholesterol levels are high, it puts you at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and hypertension due to the build-up of fatty deposits in your blood vessels, called plaque. This fatty build-up can lead to narrowing and blockage of arteries.
Having high blood sugar levels can cause your liver to produce more bad cholesterol (LDL) and reduce the production of good cholesterol (HDL). Diabetes can also increase the likelihood of plaque formation in your arteries.
Both of these factors increase your chances of developing heart disease or stroke. If you have diabetes, you should get a lipid profile test at least once a year. Your doctor may recommend more frequent screenings if you have hypertension, a history of heart problems, or if you are overweight.
4. Insulin Injection Site Examination
When your pancreas is unable to make enough insulin to meet your body’s requirement, your doctor may prescribe insulin injections to make up for the deficiency.
Insulin is generally injected under your skin (subcutaneously) in your abdominal area, the top of your hips or buttocks, the upper part of your thighs, or in the back of your upper arms.
The sites are usually rotated, as repeatedly injecting insulin in the same site can lead to side effects at the injection sites like redness, swelling, itching, dimpling of skin, unusual fat distribution under the skin, skin becoming hard or rubbery to the touch, etc. Sometimes, improper administration of the injections can also lead to infections.
If you are taking insulin as a part of your Type 2 Diabetes treatment, you should get the injection sites examined every time you visit your diabetologist or physician, or at least 3 to 4 times a year.
5. Kidney Function Tests
The kidneys play an important role in removing waste from your body. The kidneys have a network of small and delicate blood vessels in the nephrons that filter out waste from your blood.
The elevated blood sugar levels in diabetics can cause the blood vessels in and around the kidneys to become clogged and narrow. This could result in decreased blood flow to and from the kidneys and excessive elimination of proteins (albumin) in your urine.
When the blood vessels in your kidneys are damaged, it affects the functioning of your kidneys, which could result in the accumulation of waste in your body.
Diabetes is one of the main contributors to kidney disease and renal failure. Kidney function tests are used to determine how well your kidneys are functioning.
If you have diabetes, you should get your kidney function evaluated at least once or twice a year.
6. Eye Examination
An eye exam is crucial to determine if high blood sugar levels have damaged the blood vessels in your eyes, which could lead to complications like damaged retina, leaking blood vessels in the eyes, formation of scar tissue, etc.
The blood vessels in your eyes are small and delicate, and can be easily damaged by uncontrolled blood sugar levels. This can block the blood flow to your eyes, leading to complications like glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and partial or complete loss of vision.
You should get your eyes examined by an ophthalmologist at least once or twice a year if you have diabetes.
7. Dental Check-up
A regular dental checkup can help detect changes in your oral health. When blood glucose levels are high for a long period, it can lead to bleeding gums, pain, and infection in your mouth.
The excessive glucose in your saliva and blood can lead to issues like cavities, gum disease, plaque, tooth decay, thrush, dry mouth etc.
Consult a dentist at least twice a year if you have diabetes.
8. Foot Examination
If you have diabetes, a foot exam is important to ensure that there has been no nerve damage in your legs and feet. Due to your blood glucose being high for long periods, there may be nerve damage resulting in diabetic neuropathy, a condition where you may experience tingling, numbness, and loss of sensation in your limbs, especially your feet.
High blood glucose levels can cause a delay in wound healing due to poor circulation. Diabetes also weakens your immune system, which can make any wounds or sores you have vulnerable to infection.
These factors combined with nerve damage in the feet can make you prone to the risk of developing diabetic foot or gangrene.
You should get a foot exam at least once a year if you have diabetes. Get more frequent exams if you experience tingling or numbness in your feet or if you have any open wounds.
Foot examinations will be performed by your primary care doctor or a general physician.
Don’t Have Time To Read?
- Diabetes is a metabolic condition that affects your body’s ability to produce and use insulin, resulting in high blood sugar levels.
- Keeping blood sugar levels in check is important in order to prevent complications arising from diabetes.
- Common tests used to diagnose Type 2 Diabetes are the fasting blood sugar (FBS) levels test, random blood sugar (RBS) levels test, oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), and glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) test.
- To monitor overall health in Type 2 Diabetes patients, your doctor may recommend performing the HbA1c test, blood pressure check-up, lipid profile test, insulin injection site exam, kidney function tests, eye exam, dental check-up, and foot exams frequently.
- Diabetes adversely affects various organs and systems in your body, and these tests are prescribed to prevent any diabetes-related complications from arising.
- Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading diabetologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate blood sugar monitoring and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Diabetes Management program which provides 360º care. Let’s treat diabetes together.
Friendly Asked Questions
The glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) test and Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) are the most reliable diagnostic tests for diabetes.
The HbA1c test is a more accurate indicator for identifying blood glucose levels as it analyzes the glucose percentage in blood over the last 2 to 3 months, whereas the fasting blood sugar (FBS) test only analyzes the glucose levels at that time (with at least 8 hours of fasting).
The numerous tests done for diabetes can be divided into diagnostic tests (blood sugar level tests, OGTT, and HbA1c tests) and diabetes monitoring tests (like eye exam, foot exam, kidney function tests, etc.)
You can monitor your blood glucose levels at home using a glucometer, a flash glucose monitoring system, or a continuous glucose monitoring system. However, the tests to diagnose diabetes can only be performed by healthcare professionals.