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Diabetes: Tests to Watch for Complications

Topic Overview

The table below summarizes many of the tests that can be done to identify complications from diabetes, including those tests done during a physical examination. The physical examination evaluates your overall health. The doctor pays special attention to your eyes, blood vessels, heart, lungs, nerves, abdomen, and feet.

Complications from diabetes and the tests used to detect them

Organ or condition


What it shows

Target level

High blood sugar

Every 3 to 6 months, have a hemoglobin A1c test.

How steady your blood sugar levels have been over time

7% or less for most non-pregnant adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and children and adolescents with type 2 diabetes

7.5% or less for children younger than 18 years old with type 1 diabetes

(Your goal may be lower or higher, based on your health and age.)

High blood pressure

Have your blood pressure checked once at least year. If your blood pressure is high have it checked more often.

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, have your urine checked for the protein albumin. Also, have your blood checked for the waste product creatinine.

These are used to calculate an estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR).

Whether kidney disease is developing

ACR less than 2.0 mg/mmol

24-hour urine albumin less than 30 mg per day

Estimated glomular filtration rate (eGFR) greater than 60 mL/min


Every year, visit an ophthalmologist or an optometrist for a dilated eye examination (ophthalmoscopy). Some doctors may recommend less frequent eye examinations (for example, every 2 years) 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

Whether the person has lost any sensation

No foot ulcers or loss of sensation


Your dentist will recommend how often to have routine checkups. Many people should see their dentists once or twice a year.

Gum disease

Healthy gums and teeth


All children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes should have a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test every two years.

Thyroid disease

Normal thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level


Your doctor may recommend a liver function blood test, especially if you are taking a medicine that could affect your liver.

Liver disease

Normal liver function test

High cholesterol

Every year get your cholesterol levels checked.

Along with other measures, cholesterol levels can help you know your risk for heart attack or stroke.

LDL 2.0 mmol/L or less

The goal in treating cholesterol is to lower your chance of having a heart attack or a stroke. The goal is not just to lower your cholesterol numbers.



  1. Canadian Diabetes Association Clinical Practice Guidelines Expert Committee (2013). Canadian Diabetes Association 2013 clinical practice guidelines for the prevention and management of diabetes in Canada. Canadian Journal of Diabetes, 37(Suppl 1). Also available online:


Current as of: August 31, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
David C.W. Lau MD, PhD, FRCPC - Endocrinology
Matthew I. Kim MD - Endocrinology