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Should you be screened for diabetes?

Here’s what to expect when you do decide to get yourself screened

Published

By Dr. Kaycee Reyes

More and more people are finding out that they have diabetes. It seems to be more prevalent than ever nowadays—there’s someone who knows of someone who has it, or perhaps a family member is diabetic. No one can pinpoint exactly on what causes this disease, but others have said that genetics play a critical part in it, the environment you live in, as well as your fitness and health level. It’s estimated that all over the world, Type 2 diabetes accounts for over 90 percent of patients with diabetes. It is estimated to affect 6.4 percent in adults worldwide, varying from 3.8 to 10.2 percent by region; and rates of undetected diabetes may be as high as 50 percent in some areas.3

There are some telltale signs early on that you might be diabetic—thirst, weight loss, blurry vision, or polyuria, which means you pee too much, and it’s perhaps because you drink too many beverages that contain caffeine, or alcohol, or both. These, along with random blood glucose value of 200mg/dl or higher are symptoms of hyperglycemia. You have hyperglycemia if you have abnormally high blood sugar levels, and a blood glucose test can be taken to determine this.

Unlike over-the-counter home tests for pregnancy and Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), there is no home test to check for diabetes, since it is quite more complicated than simply peeing on a stick. And even if there were, like any serious health concern, a professional must be consulted to address and give you the proper diagnosis.

Diagnostics work up for screening of diabetes must be done due to the following reasons:  (1) it’s an important health problem and (2) an early asymptomatic stage exists (meaning the person might have diabetes already but no presenting symptoms yet), (3) there is a suitable screening test, (4) an accepted treatment is available, and (5) an early treatment during the asymptomatic stage improves the long-term outcome.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) issued a criteria when it comes to diagnosing diabetes. The diagnosis is based on one of the four abnormalities:

 

  1. Glycated hemoglobin (A1C);
  2. Fasting plasma glucose (FPG);
  3. Random elevated glucose with symptoms, or
  4. Abnormal oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT).

 

These abnormalities are found out through screening tests, but sometimes the OGTT isn’t used for screening due to its “inconvenience,” except when a woman is with child—it’s a prerequisite for her. Remember, you just need one test to come out as abnormal in order to successfully diagnose asymptomatic cases in diabetes.

Also, according to ADA criteria, increased risk for diabetes (sometimes referred to as ‘prediabetes’) can also be diagnosed with the presence of following screening results:

 

a) Impaired glucose tolerance (IGT)–two-hour plasma glucose value during a 75g OGTT between 140 and 199 mg/dL (7.8 to 11.0 mmol/L)

b) Impaired fasting glucose (IFG)–Fasting plasma glucose 100 to 125 mg/dL (5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L)

c) Hemoglobin A1C–A1C 5.7 to 6.4 percent

 

How early should you be screened? The ADA recommends testing by 45 years old, with either the AIC, fasting plasma glucose, or two-hour OGTT. If the fasting plasma glucose value is greater than 100mg/dL or A1C is greater than 5.7 percent, retesting every three years is needed, while retesting every one to two years is needed if the fasting plasma glucose is 100 to 125 mg/dl or A1C is 5.7 percent to 6.4 percent.

If gone unchecked, diabetes can lead to complications that can affect your eyes, kidney, feet, and overall health, even death. Kidney disease due to diabetes  is called diabetic nephropathy while eye complications due to diabetes  are called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic neuropathy is when diabetes affects your nerves, and can even happen to those who have prediabetes. Foot problems are common for diabetics, with foot ulcers forming or toes beginning to curl up, and beyond the aesthetics and the pain, these foot problems can result in death.

What can be done now to help prevent diabetes in its track? While we can’t fight genetics, we can live a healthier lifestyle—eat and drink everything in moderation, avoid those that are harmful or don’t contribute to your well being, and get a fitness routine going. As much as possible, even without symptoms or without a history of diabetes running in the family, have yourself checked—you can’t put a price tag on your peace of mind.

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