Why You NEED to Know Your Diabetes Lab Results
Last updated: March 2022
Rarely can a medical provider look at you and make a determination on how well your body is working (unless, of course, you have a visible broken bone or rash). That means medical testing, such as lab work and urine analysis, are all essential to evaluating your diabetes plan of care. And the results literally drive your provider’s decision-making.
How to understand lab test results
That means, ultimately, you NEED to look at your results and reports as well. And, know what’s normal or abnormal.
Understanding normal vs. abnormal test results
Now, you may be asking, Meg, how could I possibly know what’s normal or not? I hear you. Looking at lab work can be intimidating. Start with a print out of your lab results. Most print outs will have your lab value (meaning what result your body showed) and next to it, the normal range for that lab. For example, your print out may show your potassium level is 3.7, and the normal range next to it would be 3.5-5. Not a fan of paper? Many electronic health records will allow access to a patient portal. This is a website you can log on to and view your lab results. You will often find the normal ranges for each lab, along with your results. It may even show you trends of your lab work overtime.
I have to throw in a little caveat here...Your A1c will often show up “high” or “elevated” if it’s above the non-diabetes range, so over 5.7%. That does not necessarily mean you have unhealthy blood sugars. It just confirms you have diabetes. The goal is less than 7% for most people with diabetes.
Look at trends
Finally, focus on trends. One set of lab work is only a snapshot in time. You really need a few sets of labs to see what direction things are headed - (just think about when you’re in the hospital, they draw blood daily to see if your lab levels show your body is improving or getting sicker). This holds true for diabetes lab and urine tests as well.
Why is it important to understand lab test results?
This may seem like a lot of work, looking at labs and reviewing results. The reality is, I’ve seen the impact of not doing this way too often. For example, I’ve met a handful of people over the years who thought they were newly diagnosed with diabetes. However, in learning more about ranges for A1c levels, they discovered they had had diabetes years before they were told by their medical provider. Argh! The delay broke the trust they had with their provider and decreased their treatment options.
The whole goal of doing all this work is to give you a way to engage your medical provider around your diabetes health. To create conversations about what the next steps are in your care, what’s working and what isn’t, and when results may warrant a referral to a specialist. Being engaged in your care usually means you have improved glucose levels and overall better health.
How often do you find yourself craving sweet snacks?