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More Diabetes Health Checks

Diabetes Health Checks: Page 2

By , Caring.com senior editor
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Twice-yearly dental checks

Gum disease is common in people with diabetes because their bodies have a tough time keeping bacteria in check. Your parent needs regular dental checkups and cleaning to keep this condition at bay.

Annual cardiovascular exam

Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of mortality for people with diabetes. Your parent's doctor should conduct an annual cardiovascular exam, including tests for the blood lipids (fats) cholesterol and triglycerides. Low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), also called "bad" cholesterol, and triglycerides can build up and clog your parent's blood vessels, leading to a heart attack or stroke. On the other hand, high-density lipoproteins (HDLs), or "good" cholesterol, help remove cholesterol from blood vessels.

As a general guide, your parent should aim for total cholesterol count below 200, with an LDL under 100, an HDL of 50 in women (40 in men), and triglycerides at less than 150. If your parent's numbers aren't satisfactory, her doctor will likely recommend lifestyle modifications that focus on lowering trans and saturated fat and cholesterol intake, weight loss (if applicable), and increased physical activity. Medications are also available to treat these conditions if behavioral changes don't do the job. In addition, her doctor may recommend that your parent take an aspirin a day as a preventive strategy to ward off cardiovascular complications.

Annual urine test

Diabetes can damage the kidneys, a common complication known as nephropathy. Small amounts of protein in the urine are an early warning sign of this disorder. A urine test will measure the amount of the protein microalbumin to determine how well your parent's kidneys are working.

Annual comprehensive foot exam

Diabetes can reduce blood supply to the legs and cause numbness in the feet. In addition to the quarterly foot checks recommended above, your parent's doctor should screen annually for loss of sensation and pulses in the feet, a sign of nerve damage called neuropathy. A foot and lower leg inspection should also include a check for any infections. People with diabetes often have reduced blood flow to the feet, coupled with a loss of sensation, and together these problems make it easier for ulcers and sores to develop. Left untreated, such problems can eventually lead to amputation.

Annual eye exam

Diabetes is a leading cause of blindness. Your parent should have a thorough eye exam every year to check for problems common to people with diabetes, such as deterioration of the retina (damage to the small blood vessels in the eye), glaucoma (an increase in fluid pressure in the eye), or cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye). Finding and treating eye conditions early can help stave off serious vision loss later on.