Diabetes screening can not only protect you from health complications related to the illness, including premature death, but it can protect your unborn children as well. Getting screened for diabetes can also help you identify pre-diabetes, which can help you prevent its progression into type 2 diabetes.
There are many actions you can take once you are diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes, including losing weight, eating healthier and being more physically active.
There are a variety of screening methods your doctor may use depending on your circumstances, risk factors and other considerations. Certain tests diagnose diabetes while others diagnose pre-diabetes or gestational diabetes, for example. Moreover, if found in one screening to have diabetes, another screening is required to determine the type of diabetes found. You may be able to get screened for diabetes at little to no cost through your insurance or through medical research programs.
What Are the Types of Diabetes?
There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Screening for Type 1 diabetes generally only occurs when a person exhibits symptoms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes can be hereditary and is most commonly diagnosed in young adults and children. Type 2 diabetes can develop in children or adults. In addition to these two main types of diabetes, there is also gestational diabetes and pre-diabetes. Gestational diabetes may be found in pregnant women. It can be passed on to their children. Children not born with it have an increased likelihood of developing diabetes or pre-diabetes later in life. There is also a type of diabetes commonly mistaken for Type 1 diabetes that occurs only in babies, known as monogenic diabetes.
Who should get screened for diabetes?
People should not diagnose themselves for diabetes, such as by using an over-the-counter blood glucose meter. Only a physician can diagnose diabetes. Anyone experiencing symptoms of diabetes should be screened for a proper diagnosis so treatment can be initiated. These symptoms include:
- Hunger and thirst.
- Increased urination.
- Tingling or numbness in the extremities.
- Blurred vision.
- Inexplicable weight loss.
- Sores that will not heal.
In general, you should get screened for diabetes if you are 45 years of age or older, or you are obese or overweight and between 19 and 44 years of age. Women with a prior diagnosis of gestational diabetes should also get screened. Children between 10 and 18 years of age who are obese or overweight and exhibit two or more other diabetes risk factors should also be screened. Without proper and timely treatment, the symptoms of diabetes can develop into larger health complications. Therefore, even if you do not have any symptoms of diabetes, if you have any risk factors for the illness, you should still get screened. Risk factors for diabetes include:
- Being overweight or obese.
- Being 45 years of age or older.
- A family history of the disease.
- African-American, Hispanic/Latino, Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian, Native American or Alaska Native heritage.
- High blood pressure.
- Low HDL cholesterol and high triglyceride levels.
- Physical inactivity.
Other risk factors for diabetes are diagnoses of cystic ovary syndrome, stroke, heart disease or acanthosis nigricans, which are dark patches in the folds or creases of your skin. Also, if you were pregnant while having diabetes, get tested within three months of your baby’s birth to make sure you do not have type 2 diabetes.
What screening methods diagnose diabetes?
Among the most commonly used tests for screening diabetes are the A1C test and the Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) test. The A1C test is test of your blood’s average glucose levels over a period of three months. Also known as the hemoglobin A1C, glycated hemoglobin, glycosylated hemoglobin and HbA1C test, it is used based on a physician’s assessment of your age and other factors. The A1C test is not effective in those who have anemia. It can also produce unreliable results in people of Southeast Asian, Mediterranean or African descent.
The Fasting Plasma Glucose test is another blood test that measures the exact glucose level of your blood at a particular moment in time. This test is most reliable in the mornings following a fast of at least eight hours. By contrast, you need not fast for an A1C test. Another diabetes screening method used slightly less often is the Random Plasma Glucose (RPG) test. This test does not require fasting. It is used when a patient is exhibiting diabetes symptoms.
For pregnant women, one of the best and simplest screening methods is to have a glucose challenge test from 24 to 28 weeks into the pregnancy. The glucose challenge test, also known as the glucose screening test, involves a blood draw one hour after drinking a glucose-containing liquid. If your blood glucose level is too high on this test, then your doctor may recommend an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). In this test, your blood is drawn first and then you drink the glucose-containing liquid. Your blood is then drawn each hour for two or three hours afterward. If your blood glucose levels are high in at least two of these test, you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. The OGTT can also be used to diagnose pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes in people who are not pregnant.
The following shows the range of results for each test and their corresponding diagnoses:
- A1C test – Under 5.7 is Normal, between 5.7 and 6.4 indicates pre-diabetes and 6.5 or higher indicates diabetes.
- Fasting Plasma Glucose – Under 100 is Normal, between 100 and 125 indicates prediabetes and over 125 indicates diabetes.
- Oral Glucose Tolerance test – Under 139 is Normal, between 140 and 199 indicates prediabetes and 200 or higher indicates diabetes.
Screenings for Type of Diabetes
A screening to determine whether you have diabetes will not tell you what type of diabetes you have. To determine the type of Diabetes you have, you need a different screening method. Doctors look for the presence in your blood of a particular type of antibodies known as autoantibodies that assault your healthy cells and tissues. Autoantibodies are specific to Type 1 diabetes and not present in people with Type 2 diabetes.