Tests to diagnose diabetes complications

The table below summarizes the tests that can be performed to identify complications from diabetes, including those done in a physical exam. These tests range from taking your blood pressure to drawing blood for cholesterol or kidney function testing.

Complications from diabetes and the tests used to detect them

Organ or disease


What it shows

Target level

High cholesterol

LDL and 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
  • Triglycerides less than 150 mg/dL
  • HDL more than 40 mg/dL in men and more than 50 mg/dL in women

High blood pressure

Blood pressure

Pressure of blood flow in your arteries

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


Macroalbuminuria (large amounts of protein in urine)

Microalbuminuria (small amounts of protein in urine)

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)


Retinal exam

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

No retinal damage


Foot exam

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

No foot ulcers or loss of sensation

Last Updated: August 8, 2009

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