What is a Glucose Screen?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 01 January 2019
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A glucose screen is a medical test which is conducted to determine someone's blood sugar level, providing information about how well the body processes sugar. Glucose screens can include a reading of what is known as “fasting glucose,” along with a blood sugar reading taken after a patient has ingested a sugar-rich drink. Glucose screens are used in the diagnosis of a number of medical conditions, and it is important for patients to be aware that the results of this test are not definitive. If a patient's blood sugar level is abnormal, follow-up testing will be used to explore this finding and determine why the patient's blood sugar level is off.

If a doctor suspects that a patient may have diabetes, a glucose screen can be ordered. The levels can be normal, of concern, or high; concerning levels can indicate that a patient is developing diabetes, while high levels strongly suggest that a patient has diabetes. If the results are abnormal, an additional glucose screen and other diagnostic tests will be ordered for the patient. Some diabetic patients also regularly undergo glucose screenings at medical appointments to monitor their condition, in addition to using blood sugar monitoring to control their diabetes at home.


Pregnant women who do not have diabetes may be asked to undergo a glucose screen between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. This test is used to identify gestational diabetes, a condition which has no symptoms, making it critical to do a glucose screen to check for it. In this case, the woman is asked to drink a syrupy drink, and after an hour, her blood sugar is tested. If the results are high, she will be asked to come in for a more extensive glucose tolerance test in which fasting glucose is measures and she drinks a sweetened drink and waits three hours for a blood draw to check blood sugar.

Diabetes can be dangerous during pregnancy, and for diabetic women or women who develop gestational diabetes, a doctor will usually have some special recommendations to reduce complications. Diabetes is considered a risk factor which can make a pregnancy potentially more dangerous to mother and baby, and a patient may be referred to an obstetrician who specializes in high risk pregnancies if her doctor feels that she would be better served by someone with extensive experience.

Getting a glucose screen is not painful, but it does require some preparation, and it's important to follow directions. Some doctors give their patients a sweet drink to consume at home before coming in, so that they don't have to sit around the office waiting for the test. In this case, the drink must be consumed exactly as directed and at the right time. For patients who undergo a fasting glucose test, it's also important to fast for the appropriate amount of time, to avoid skewing the reading.



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