Type 1 Diabetes Tests and Diagnosis
Essentially, it can be quite difficult to make a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. Initially the symptoms of type 1 diabetes can be easily confused with those of a stomach virus. In fact, unless there is a significant history of type 1 diabetes in the family, many people can easily miss the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes. Often diagnosis occurs only after these symptoms have gotten bad enough to warrant medical attention. Diabetes Clinical Trials help medical researchers to better understand diabetes mellitus, and this knowledge allows them to develop better diagnostic tests and factors.
When Are Most Cases of Type 1 Diabetes Diagnosed?
The exact factors which trigger the onset of type 1 diabetes are still unknown, and the symptoms tend to develop quite rapidly once the pancreas has stopped producing insulin. Medical researchers have a number of theories on what plays a role in the triggering of T1D, currently they are looking into environmental, viral, dietary, and chemical factors. Usually type 1 diabetes patients have been diagnosed within a short period of time after their symptoms manifested. Often times this is in a hospital or emergency room. In order for doctor’s to make the right diagnosis, they need to take a blood sample in order to measure the glucose levels of the patient’s blood.
Diagnostic Tests for Diabetes
There are a number of tests that doctors currently are using to diagnose type 1 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.
• 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.
• 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 1 diabetes. Traditionally this test had been used in diagnosing patients with type 2 diabetes, but experts now agree that it can be used to effectively diagnose type 1 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.
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 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system has attacked the beta cells within the pancreas which produce the insulin, and thus the body no longer has the ability to convert blood sugar into energy. These follow up tests are 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 find these autoantibodies, then type 1 diabetes is confirmed.