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Tests and Exams to Monitor Diabetes


The table below summarizes the tests that can be done to identify complications from diabetes , including those tests done during a physical exam. The physical exam evaluates your overall health. The doctor pays special attention to your eyes, blood vessels, heart, lungs, nerves, abdomen, and feet. Tests range from taking your blood pressure to drawing blood to test your cholesterol or kidney function.

Complications from diabetes and the tests used to detect them

Organ or condition


What it shows

Target level

High cholesterol

Every year, get your LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglyceride tests (done after you have not eaten for 9 to 12 hours).

  • Level of LDL ("bad") cholesterol in your blood
  • Level of HDL ("good") cholesterol in your blood
  • Level of triglycerides in your blood
  • LDL less than 100 mg/dL or aim for keeping it at 70 mg/dL
  • HDL more than 40 mg/dL in men and more than 50 mg/dL in women
  • Triglycerides less than 150 mg/dL

High blood pressure

Every year, have your blood pressure checked.

Pressure of blood flow in your arteries

Less than 130 mm Hg systolic (top number) and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic (bottom number)


Every year, get a urine test that checks for microalbumin, or small amounts of protein. If you have protein in your urine, it is a sign of kidney damage.

Kidney disease present

Subclinical (developing) kidney disease

  • Negative macroalbuminuria (less than 300 mg of protein in 24 hours)
  • Negative microalbuminuria (less than 30 mg of protein)


Every year, visit an ophthalmologist or an optometrist for a dilated eye exam (ophthalmoscopy). Some doctors may recommend less frequent eye exams if you have no signs of diabetic retinopathy .

Whether retinopathy (damage to back of the eye) has developed

No retinal damage


Every year, get a thorough examination of your feet.

Whether foot ulcers have developed and whether the person has lost any sensation

No foot ulcers or loss of sensation


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Jennifer Hone, MD - Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
Last Revised July 1, 2011

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