What is diabetes? According to the American Diabetes Association, Diabetes mellitus is a group of metabolic diseases characterized by hyperglycemia that results from defects in insulin secretion, insulin action, or both. Type 2 diabetes is the most prevalent form of the disease and is often asymptomatic in its early stages. This often leads the disease to be undiagnosed for several years. Getting a diabetes screening is extremely important for this reason.
Symptoms of diabetes
Type 2 diabetes can go unnoticed for so long because mild to moderate blood sugar levels typically don’t cause any symptoms. When blood sugars start to rise significantly, people notice the following symptoms:
- Excessive thirst
- Weight loss without dieting or lifestyle changes
- Frequent urination
- Blurry vision
- Repeat skin infections
- Poor wound healing
Risk factors for diabetes include:
- Having a family member with diabetes
- Being 45 or older
- People of African American, Mexican American, American Indian, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, or Asian American descent
- A history of gestational diabetes or women who have birthed babies that weigh nine pounds or heavier
- Low HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels or high triglycerides
- High blood pressure
- A history of heart disease or stroke
- Being overweight or obese
- Being inactive or sedentary
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
What is a diabetes screening?
In order to diagnose diabetes, a healthcare professional will use one of four blood screening exams to measure blood sugar levels; this is a diabetes screening. The higher the blood sugar levels are, the more likely a person will receive a positive result from their diabetes screening.
A diabetes screening test is typically performed twice on two separate days to confirm the results.
The Four Screening Tests Include:
A1c: Also called the hemoglobin A1c test. This test determines a patient’s average blood glucose levels over the past two to three months. It’s important to note that this test is not always accurate under some circumstances, such as patients with iron-deficiency anemia, liver disease, kidney failure, or conditions that affect red blood cells’ lifespan. Patients do not need to fast before this test.
Fasting Plasma Glucose: This screening works by measuring a patient’s blood glucose level at testing time. A healthcare provider will perform this test after a patient fasts for at least eight hours. For that reason, this test is usually done in the morning.
Oral Glucose Tolerance: For this blood test, patients must fast for eight hours. After the fast, patients must drink a sugary drink to determine whether their body can adequately process the sugar.
Random Plasma Glucose: A provider will only provide this diabetes screening test on people currently exhibiting diabetes signs to get an immediate blood sugar reading—no fasting is necessary.
The A1c test and the fasting plasma glucose tests are the most commonly used screening tests for diagnosing type 2 diabetes. Depending on the results, some patients will only need one test.
Diabetes screening is essential for people experiencing diabetes symptoms and people who are not experiencing symptoms at all. Some undiagnosed diabetics only show mild symptoms, and some may not even show any symptoms at all. Diabetes screening can help patients detect the disease early so they can start working with their doctor to develop a treatment plan to manage the condition.
Why you should get a diabetes screening
People with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes are also at a much higher risk for stroke, coronary heart disease, and peripheral vascular disease. They also have a greater likelihood of having dyslipidemia, hypertension, and obesity. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends adults who are overweight between the ages of 40-70 get a type 2 diabetes screening.
Early detection and treatment may reduce the complications associated with diabetes; screening for diabetes could be a life-saving procedure.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of diabetes or if you have a family history of diabetes, you must get a diabetes screening because when left untreated, diabetes can lead to:
- Kidney damage that leads to dialysis
- Eye damage that can lead to blindness
- Increased risk for heart disease or stroke
- Chronic conditions including neuropathy (nerve damage)
- Gastroparesis (issues with stomach emptying)
- Diabetes mellitus can be deadly if not diagnosed and managed properly
- Extremely high blood glucose can even lead to a coma (hyperosmolar hyperglycemic non-ketotic state)
While there is no cure for type 2 diabetes, prevention is possible by doing the following:
Practice healthy eating and regular physical activity
Monitor gradual weight gain, and talk to your doctor about ways to stop it
Talk to your doctor as soon as you start to notice any symptoms
If you are interested in learning more about diabetes screenings, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.