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How Is Diabetes Diagnosed?

Out of the estimated 24 million people with diabetes, one third, or eight million, don’t know they have the disease. According to Martin J. Abrahamson, M.D., Medical Director and Senior Vice President at Joslin Diabetes Center, this is because people with type 2 diabetes often have no symptoms. However, a simple blood test is all you need to find out if you are one the millions with untreated diabetes.

Who should be tested?

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that everyone aged 45 and over should be tested for diabetes, and if the results are normal, re-tested every three years. Testing should be conducted at earlier ages and carried out more frequently in individuals who have any of the following diabetes risk factors:

  • You have a parent or sibling with diabetes
  • You are overweight (BMI higher than 25)
  • You are a member of a high-risk ethnic population (African American, Hispanic American, Native American, Asian American or Pacific Islander)
  • You had gestational diabetes or a baby weighing over 9 pounds
  • Your HDL cholesterol levels are 35 mg/dl or less, and/or your triglyceride level is 250 mg/dl or above
  • You have high blood pressure
  • You have polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • On previous testing, had impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting tolerance

What tests are used for diagnosis?

Fasting Plasma Glucose –This blood test is taken in the morning, on an empty stomach. A level of 126 mg/dl or above, on more than one occasion, indicates diabetes.

Casual or Random Glucose - This blood test can be taken anytime during the day, without fasting. A glucose level of 200 mg/dl and above may suggest diabetes.

If any of these test results occurs, testing should be repeated on a different day to confirm the diagnosis. If a casual plasma glucose equal to 200 mg/dl or above is detected, the confirming test used should be a fasting plasma glucose or an oral glucose tolerance test.

What You Need to Know About Diabetes is an excellent first resource for someone newly diagnosed, and is appropriate for those with either type 1 or 2.  It concisely and clearly covers the basics of diabetes care, including nutrition, monitoring, oral medications, insulin, physical activity, hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia, sick days and travel.

For mor information or to purchase this book, visit the Joslin store.

Page last updated: December 19, 2014