“[The answer] depends on the specific situation of each patient,” Oscar Morey Vargas, M.D., an endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF “It is a decision that has to be made by the provider that follows the diabetes care of the patient.”
If you’re reluctant to venture into a clinic for blood work, then you can ask your doctor about what is best for your situation. If your doctor thinks it’s time to check your A1C and you feel uncomfortable about going into a medical office, then it’s important to communicate that to your physician. They should be able to explain their COVID-19 safety precautions and offer solutions that make you feel more comfortable about being in a public office, says Kim Pierce, R.D., a certified diabetes care and education specialist at Cleveland Clinic. Pierce says she is more than happy to talk to people about the protocols that her workplace has enacted, including regular temperature checks, mask requirements, frequent cleanings of exam rooms, and blocked-off seating areas in the waiting rooms.
“We’ve seen a lot of people being scared to come into the facilities,” Pierce tells SELF, but reiterates that her facility, like many others, has taken steps to make it as safe as possible under the circumstances.
Many health care workers have already been vaccinated against COVID-19, so you might feel comfortable being around the medical team but not other patients. If that’s the case, you can ask for an appointment during times when the office is usually slowest. Another option is to wait in the car and ask for the office to call you when the doctor or nurse is ready to see you. (If you’re getting tested at an outside lab, then you may want to call ahead of time to ask about their COVID-19 precautions as well as your options for limiting your exposure to other patients.)
There are at-home A1C tests, but doctors typically prefer lab tests because they are the gold standard of care, according to Dr. Moreno. If you’re really uncomfortable with going into a medical office for blood work, then you can ask your doctor whether an at-home test is appropriate for your situation. If so, it’s important to know that home tests might not be covered by your insurance if you have health care coverage. (You might want to check with your insurance provider to ask if you can get reimbursed before purchasing a test.)
2. Try to keep up with your preventive screenings if you can.
Aside from the A1C test, there are a few other screenings your doctor probably recommends as part of your diabetes care.
Normally, your doctor might suggest that you take a kidney disease test every year to measure the levels of protein found in your urine. Higher amounts of protein could indicate that you’re developing diabetic kidney disease (also called diabetic nephropathy), which can lead to kidney failure, if not addressed. “If the prior screens have been negative, a delay of a month or so is fine, but a check should be done as close as possible to a year from the last,” Ruchi Mathur, M.D., an endocrinologist at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, tells SELF.
Speaking to your doctor can help you decide on the best time to get tested. For example, if you have other medical conditions that increase your risk of developing diabetic kidney disease, such as high blood pressure, or if you have a family history of kidney disease, then your doctor might encourage you not to delay this test—just to be safe.
Speaking of risk factors for kidney disease, high blood pressure is a very real problem for people with diabetes. In fact, high blood pressure is twice as common in people with diabetes, according to John Hopkins Medicine. Many times, your blood pressure gets checked during routine doctor’s appointments, but if you haven’t gone in for any medical exams throughout the pandemic, then it’s definitely been a while since you’ve had this done.