Diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high levels of glucose in the blood it occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or cannot use insulin effectively, resulting in an accumulation of sugar in the bloodstream.
If left untreated, diabetes can lead to serious health complications, including heart disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage therefore, early detection and management are crucial. This article outlines how diabetes is tested and diagnosed.
1. Symptoms That May Warrant a Diabetes Test
Diabetes symptoms vary depending on the type of diabetes and the amount of blood sugar elevation some people, especially those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, may not experience symptoms initially. In contrast, individuals with type 1 diabetes often have noticeable and severe symptoms. Some common symptoms of diabetes include:
- Increased thirst and frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores or frequent infections
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional. They can recommend appropriate testing to confirm or rule out a diabetes diagnosis.
2. Types of Diabetes Tests
Healthcare providers use several types of tests to diagnose diabetes:
1. Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) Test
The FPG test measures blood glucose levels after an overnight fast (no eating or drinking anything other than water for at least eight hours). A fasting blood glucose level of 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher on two separate tests indicates diabetes.
2. Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)
The OGTT also begins with a fasting blood glucose test. Then, you’ll drink a liquid containing a high amount of glucose. Your blood glucose levels will then be tested periodically over the next two to three hours. A blood glucose level of 200 mg/dL or higher after two hours suggests diabetes.
3. Random (also called Casual) Plasma Glucose Test
This test is a blood check taken at a random time, regardless of when you last ate. A blood glucose level of 200 mg/dL or higher, along with symptoms of diabetes, indicates diabetes.
3. Diagnosis Criteria for Diabetes and Prediabetes
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) suggests the following diagnostic criteria:
- Normal: Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) less than 100 mg/dL and HbA1c less than 5.7%
- Prediabetes: FPG 100-125 mg/dL or HbA1c between 5.7% and 6.4%
- Diabetes: FPG 126 mg/dL or above, HbA1c of 6.5% or above, or an OGTT result of 200 mg/dL or above.
4. Regular Diabetes Screening for High-Risk Individuals
The ADA recommends routine screening for type 2 diabetes in adults beginning at age 45, particularly if they are overweight. If tests are normal, screenings should be repeated every three years. However, individuals with certain risk factors may need earlier or more frequent testing:
- Overweight with one or more additional risk factors for diabetes, such as a sedentary lifestyle, a family history of type 2 diabetes, or a personal history of gestational diabetes.
- Certain ethnic backgrounds, including African-American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, or Asian-American.
- Women who were diagnosed with gestational diabetes or who delivered a baby weighing more than 9 pounds.
Diagnosing diabetes is crucial for beginning a treatment plan and preventing or managing complications. It’s achieved through various tests, often in conjunction with symptom review and risk assessment. It’s important to consult a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing symptoms or have risk factors for diabetes.
They can guide you through the process of diagnosis and subsequent management or prevention strategies. Regular check-ups are also vital, even in the absence of symptoms, as early detection and intervention can significantly improve long-term health outcomes.