Yearly examinations, or more frequent screenings depending on your physician’s recommendations, are essential for people with type 1 diabetes. During examinations your doctor will review your current diabetes self-management plan and look for signs of potential complications. Discover what to expect during exams when you have type 1 diabetes and why these exams are so important.
- Children with type 1 diabetes should visit their doctor often. It is recommended children see their doctor at least every 3 to 6 months or more if that is what the doctor recommends. During the exam blood sugar records, blood tests, and blood pressures are checked. The child’s growth and development are evaluated. The doctor looks for signs of infection in all areas especially the feet and injection sites. A hemoglobin A1C will be done to check the child’s blood sugar averages along with a fasting blood glucose test. Other tests that might be ordered include a cholesterol (LDL and HDL) test, especially if there is a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol. Children should also see a dentist at least every six months and a dietitian each year or when needed or prescribed by the physician.
- Other tests may be recommended for children or adults 5 years after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. These include an eye exam to check for diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. A urine test will be taken to check for protein and detect possible diabetic nephropathy or kidney damage. A thyroid-stimulating test (TSH) and thyroxine (T4) test might be done every 1 to 2 years to check for thyroid problems. A foot exam will be done at least annually or more often to test for neuropathy and check the condition of the feet.
- Additional tests might be recommended for children with diabetes as they grow older. After age 10, routine screening for depression may be ordered. If the child has trouble eating or has eating issues an eating disorder evaluation may be done. Children who are not growing or gaining weight as expected could be tested for celiac disease.
- Adults with type 1 diabetes should go for a routine examination at least once a year or as recommended by their physician. Blood glucose documentation, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and hemoglobin A1C will be assessed during your diabetes review. Your height and weight will be taken to see if you are maintaining a proper weight. During your exam, you have an opportunity to discuss any issues you have with the doctor. You can also share any change in regime, lifestyle, or medications including any side effects. Your infusion sites will be checked as well as your feet. Always take off your shoes and socks during an exam. The doctor might also ask if you are suffering from common issues such as depression or sexual dysfunction. Your doctor may recommend scheduling an appointment with a podiatrist for a foot exam and an ophthalmologist for a diabetes retinopathy and glaucoma screening. You should also see a dentist at least twice a year or as often as recommended by your dentist for a checkup and cleaning.
- Usually you should have a blood test a week or two before your diabetes review. The blood test will check your A1C results and lipid levels. Ask your diabetes health care team if you need to fast prior to any blood tests. Also bring the results of any self-testing including blood glucose and blood pressure so your doctor can look for certain patterns. This can help your health care team adjust your medications, insulin, diet, and exercise regime. Your doctor might also request a urine specimen.
- Based on all the results of your examination, your doctor might recommend seeing additional specialists. This may include a cardiologist, psychiatrist, diabetes educator, dietitian, nephrologist, or neurologist. Many complications can be prevented or minimized with blood sugar monitoring and regular medical care. Monitor your blood sugar regularly, take your blood pressure using a blood pressure monitor and check your feet for cuts, blisters, and sores every day. Immediately report any irregularities to your diabetes health care team. Don’t wait for an exam to discuss problems since early detection can ward off future complications.
At least a complete yearly examination, or more often, is important and needed for people with type 1 diabetes. Be well-prepared for your exam and ask what tests need to be done prior to visiting the doctor. Proper diabetes self-management can ward off health complications and help you lead a healthier life.