3 Screening Tests You Should Do If You Have Diabetes

Managing type 2 diabetes begins at home with healthy food and exercise choices. Working with a team of providers and specialists is also critical to reach and maintain healthy blood sugar levels as well as protect your body from type 2 diabetes-related complications – like vision loss and neuropathy.

1. A1C Screening

Why the A1C Test is Important

The A1C is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar levels over the past three months. When sugar enters your blood, it attaches to a protein in your red blood cells called hemoglobin. A1C tells us what percentage of your red blood cells have sugar attached to them.

If you have diabetes, your doctor will likely recommend routine A1C screening. Complications from diabetes are linked to higher A1C levels, so it’s critical to work with your provider to reach and maintain your individual A1C goal.

What to Expect with an A1C Test

No preparation is needed to do the test, such as fasting. Your provider will take a small blood sample from your finger or arm, often right in the exam room.

What to Do If Your A1C is Elevated

If your doctor tells you your A1C is elevated, some ways to reduce it include:

  • Exercise. Exercise helps your body use insulin more efficiently so it can process sugar in your blood better. Consistent exercise can lower blood sugar and improve A1C.
  • Take medications as prescribed. Medications are a part of your diabetes management toolbox. When taken as prescribed and combined with healthy lifestyle and behavior changes, they can be very effective in helping you live your best life.
  • Manage stress. Stress hormones make it harder for insulin to remove glucose from the bloodstream, contributing to insulin resistance and increasing your A1C. Chronic stress can also distract you from important self-care. Use our free Stress Relief Guide to explore stress-busters that work for you.
  • Eat regular meals and snacks. Eat regular meals and snacks. Aim for consistent meals and snacks every 3-4 hours, eating until you feel about 70-80% full (it takes about 20 minutes post-meal for your brain to signal complete fullness). Avoid skipping meals and carbs, which deprives your body of the energy it needs from a variety of foods, including those with fiber. Instead, aim for a moderate carb intake at each meal, prioritizing fiber-rich sources such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Remember to balance your meals and snacks with healthy fats and proteins.
  • Drink in moderation. Alcohol can inhibit the liver’s ability to properly process blood glucose (sugar), which can lead to hypoglycemia, especially for people taking insulin. Many drinks also contain carbohydrates.
  • Quit smoking. People who smoke are 30-40% more likely to develop diabetes. Smoking also makes managing your A1C harder. Nicotine decreases the effectiveness of insulin, resulting in higher blood glucose levels. We have tools to help you quit

Diabetes is a progressive disease – even when you do everything “right,” your A1C may continue to rise over time. Working with your healthcare team to monitor and make adjustments is critical. 

When to See Your Diabetes Educator

Working with a diabetes educator should also be part of your regular and routine healthcare – especially helpful at four key times.

  • When you are first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes
  • After your yearly wellness check-ins (to discuss results and make adjustments)
  • When new challenges arise, such as emotional or financial distress, changes in medications, etc.
  • When there are changes to your healthcare, such as a new provider or insurance, moving to a new area, and age-related concerns.

Most insurances support diabetes education – check with your provider for details.

Get Help Managing Your Diabetes

2. Foot Screening

Why You Should Have Routine Foot Exams

People with diabetes are at increased risk for a condition called neuropathy. Caused by high blood sugar, diabetic neuropathy damages the nerves, resulting in pain and numbness over time, most often in the legs and feet.

When untreated or uncontrolled, diabetic neuropathy can lead to serious consequences, like an amputation. But it can be prevented by managing your disease.

A foot check at your annual wellness visit and a yearly visit with your podiatrist help to identify problems early. Keeping your blood sugar in the target range as much as possible is the most important thing you can do to prevent nerve damage or stop it from getting worse.

Get Help Managing Your Diabetes

What to Expect During Your Foot Exam

Clinician performing examination of patient's foot

A foot exam is painless and typically takes no more than 30 minutes. You can expect your provider to do the following:

  • Review your medical history and medications
  • Conduct a basic exam, which may include feeling your feet, skin, and nails, looking at circulation, performing a reflex test, and checking for temperature sensation
  • Possibly order additional tests, such as imaging, nerve function tests, or a biopsy to better understand the overall health of your feet and make tailored recommendations for you
  • If your doctor observes neuropathy, they will make treatment and prevention recommendations. Ensuring your blood glucose is within the target range is the most important thing you can do to prevent neuropathy or prevent it from getting worse. Diabetes education can help you with a tailored plan to manage your blood glucose.

Diabetic Neuropathy Warning signs

Call your doctor if you experience the following symptoms. Do not wait for your next appointment:

  • Pain in your legs or cramping in your buttocks, thighs, or calves during physical activity
  • Tingling, burning, or pain in your feet
  • Loss of sense of touch or ability to feel heat or cold very well
  • A change in the shape of your feet over time
  • Loss of hair on your toes, feet, and lower legs
  • Dry, cracked skin on your feet
  • A change in the color and temperature of your feet
  • Thickened, yellow toenails
  • Fungus infections, such as athlete’s foot, between your toes
  • A blister, sore, ulcer, infected corn, or ingrown toenail

Nearly half of people with diabetic peripheral neuropathy may not have symptoms. Preventative care and regular checks are essential. 

3. Vision Screening

eye specialist examining patient's eyeWhy You Need a Yearly Retinal Eye Exam

Type 2 diabetes can eventually lead to problems with vision or blindness. Screening for vision loss is critical for protecting your eye health if you’re living with type 2 diabetes.


Keep an Eye on Your Vision


Questions? Ask-A-Nurse

Do you have questions about living with diabetes – or any other health-related questions? Talk to a Munson Healthcare Registered Nurse for free at 231-935-0951! We’re here for you 7 days a week from 7 am to 11 pm to guide you with any health-related concerns. No insurance is required to use this service.