Type 2 Diabetes Tests and Diagnosis
Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1 diabetes and there are a number of tests that can be used to diagnose it. Still, this illness remains vastly under diagnosed. Current diabetes clinical studies have medical researchers testing various new methods of earlier detection and prevention. Currently, a significant proportion of new cases show signs that they have already had the illness for a few years by the time they had it diagnosed.
When Are Most Cases of Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosed?
Most cases of type 2 diabetes are diagnosed when an individual goes in for their annual physical or check up. This is primarily due to the lack of noticeable symptoms for this illness. If a patient does appear to show some signs of type 2 diabetes, then the doctor will order one of the following tests to confirm the presence of diabetes.
Diagnostic Tests for Diabetes
There are a number of tests that doctors currently are using to diagnose diabetes in patients. Most of these tests are looking to measure the blood glucose levels in the patient with regards to when they last ate. The type of diagnostic test used on a patient fully depends on the particular situation and the doctor’s own preference. Confirmation of the presence of diabetes will usually be made with a second test done on a different day.
• Glycated Hemoglobin (A1C) Test: In 2009, the American Diabetes Association, the European Association for the Study of Diabetes and the International Diabetes Federation officially recommended the use of the A1C test in diagnosing type 2 diabetes. This blood test will show doctors what the patient’s average blood glucose level was for the last two to three months. This test has certain advantages over the other forms of blood tests, in that it takes less time and is more convenient for medical personnel to perform. If the results of the A1C test come back with a blood hemoglobin level of 6.5% or higher on two separate tests, the diagnosis of diabetes can be assuredly made.
• Fasting Blood Glucose Test: This diagnostic test requires that a patient must not eat for at least 8 hours before having their blood tested. A blood sample will then be taken after the patient has fasted the appropriate amount of time. Doctor’s will usually recommend that patients fast overnight. This means no food or drink besides some water. The blood sample must be taken before that patient has anything to eat or drink the next day. An individual who does not have diabetes will have a fasting blood sugar level of less than 100 mg/dL. Doctors are looking for a blood glucose level of more than 126 mg/dL. If an individual has higher than 126 mg/dL on two tests, than they have diabetes.
• Random Blood Glucose Test: This diagnostic test does not take into consideration when the patient had their last meal. Doctors will take this blood sample at random time. Doctor’s are looking for a blood glucose level of higher than 200 mg/dL. Regardless of when this person last ate, a blood glucose level this high suggests that the individual has diabetes. This is the preferred test to use in medical emergencies where someone is brought into the ER with extremely high blood glucose levels. These people (often times they are children) are at a high risk of slipping into a diabetes-induced coma, unless their blood glucose is brought back within a controlled level. Medical personnel can use this test to quickly determine the amount of glucose in the patient’s blood. If type 1 diabetes is confirmed, then they can administer insulin for the patient.
• Oral Glucose Tolerance Test: This diagnostic test is somewhat similar to a fasting blood glucose test, except that the patient is asked to drink a sugary beverage before the test. This way doctors can get a measure of how well the pancreas is able to handle glucose that is taken in. Initially medical personnel will test for a baseline blood glucose level after 8 hours of fasting. The patient then drinks the sugary beverage and over the next two hours, the blood glucose levels will be measured every 30 minutes. Again a blood glucose level of 200 mg/dL suggests the presence of diabetes and will be confirmed with a second test result in that range. If a patient has type 1 diabetes, then they will see a sharp rise in their blood glucose levels and it will remain high through the two hour testing period because there is no insulin being produced by the pancreas.
Once the Presence of Diabetes Has Been Confirmed
If the diagnostic tests show conclusively that a patient has diabetes, then doctors will order a follow-up test to be performed in order to distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It is extremely important to distinguish which type of diabetes is present, because they often require different strategies of treatment.
In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas and its beta cells are still producing insulin. The problem is that the body isn’t producing enough insulin or its resisting the effects of the insulin. This can depend on the particular individual in question. The follow-up test is looking for the presence of proteins which are called autoantibodies. They are produced by the body’s immune system in order to attack the pancreas’ beta cells. If medical personnel don’t find these autoantibodies, then type 2 diabetes can be confirmed.
Doctors will also need to take blood and urine samples from patients periodically. The doctor will not only access the patient’s blood pressure, but also they will measure their cholesterol levels, liver function, kidney function, and thyroid function. It is also a really good idea for patients who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes to schedule regular eye and foot exams.
Recommended Screening for Type 2 Diabetes
The American Diabetes Association believes that regular screenings for type 2 diabetes would be very helpful given the number of Americans who have the illness but aren’t aware of it. They recommend these routine screenings for people beginning at age 45, especially if they are overweight. These screenings can really benefit people who are in the pre-diabetes stage. They can get help from a doctor who can offer them a treatment strategy to help prevent type 2 diabetes. These screenings are also highly recommended for anyone who has had a family history of type 2 diabetes.