What is Diabetes Screening?

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  • Written By: Kerrie Main
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2018
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Millions of people have or are at risk of having diabetes. This chronic disease affects the body's ability to use blood sugar for energy, and it comes in three types: type 1, type 2 and gestational. Most diabetes sufferers do not know they have the disease, but early diabetes screening and detection can prevent or delay serious health conditions and problems. There are several types of diabetes screening tests depending on the suspected type of diabetes, such as human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing, antibody screening, an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) and a fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test.

When a child is genetically predisposed to developing type 1 diabetes, the HLA typing test and antibody screening tests typically are conducted. HLA typing tests work to determine which kinds of HLA proteins are present in the child's genes. When a child has DR3 or DR4 proteins, he or she might be at a high risk of developing diabetes. Antibody screenings look to see if the child is making pancreas-attacking antibodies, which hinder insulin-producing pancreas cells. If the child has them, then he or she probably is at risk of having diabetes.


Type 2 diabetes affects people of all ages, and the most common test for this type is the FPG test. Taken after eight hours of fasting, this kind of diabetes screening is a simple blood test that measures blood glucose levels. Levels under 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) are considered normal, and levels between 100 and 125 mg/dl are considered prediabetes levels. When a person has levels more than 126 mg/dl, he is diagnosed with diabetes. This test is not always reliable, and many doctors suggest taking it at different times of day.

The OGTT test typically is given to a woman who is at risk of developing gestational diabetes and as a follow up test for people who have high levels on the FPG test. The OGTT test a blood test taken two hours after drinking a sweetened liquid, or glucola, that contains 50 grams of glucose. The body absorbs glucose very quickly, and this test determines how fast the glucola is metabolized. Normal levels are up to 140 mg/dl, while prediabetes levels are between 140 and 199 mg/dl. When OGTT levels are more than 200 mg/dl, the person has diabetes.

People who might be at risk of having diabetes usually have common risk factors, such as obesity, hypertension or relatives with the condition. Others might be at risk for it if they are overweight, are older than 65 or have a history of gestational diabetes or a family history of diabetes. Early diabetes screening can help prevent long-term health problems, because patients can begin changing eating and exercise habits as well as begin taking medication to control blood sugar levels.



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