What is a Glucose Test?

A. Ribken

A glucose test is a blood test that measures the amount of glucose, or sugar, in the bloodstream. Glucose comes from foods high in carbohydrates, and is used as the main source of energy for the body. When glucose levels rise, the pancreas is triggered to release insulin. The insulin helps cells to use the glucose and keeps the blood levels in balance.

Blood glucose levels can be tested using home kits.
Blood glucose levels can be tested using home kits.

When an imbalance occurs, this can result in diabetes or hyperglycemia if the blood sugar level is too high, or hypoglycemia if the blood sugar level is too low. Symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, extreme thirst, hunger, and fatigue, and irritability. If the glucose level in the blood is too low, symptoms can occur such as heart palpitations, tremors, anxiety, confusion, and blurred vision. Glucose monitoring is essential to help control these symptoms.

Irritability may be a symptom of diabetes.
Irritability may be a symptom of diabetes.

A glucose test can be conducted in several ways. The first glucose test generally used to screen for diabetes or prediabetes is called a fasting blood sugar (FBS). A blood sample is drawn eight hours after the last meal and the glucose level measured. A postprandial blood sugar measures the glucose level in the blood two hours after the start of eating a meal, also used to diagnose diabetes and hypoglycemia. Random blood sugar (RBS) tests are done at different times to track glucose levels through the course of a day.

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A glucose blood test measures the amount of glucose or "sugar" in the blood.
A glucose blood test measures the amount of glucose or "sugar" in the blood.

Commonly used to diagnose diabetes in pregnancy, also known as gestational diabetes, an oral glucose tolerance test is a series of blood draws to check the blood sugar level after drinking a liquid full of glucose. Gestational diabetes can lead to health problems such as preeclampsia for the mother, and a high birth weight of the baby, which can result in delivery problems. This type of glucose test is important to monitor the health of both mother and baby during pregnancy to prevent complications.

An oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) requires the patient to fast for eight hours prior to the blood draw.
An oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) requires the patient to fast for eight hours prior to the blood draw.

According to the National Diabetes Fact Sheet, over 5.7 million people in the US have diabetes but remain undiagnosed. Diabetes is ranked the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Complications from diabetes include heart disease, stroke, blindness, and kidney disease. A simple glucose test is all it takes to identify the problem.

A regular glucose test is very important in the treatment of diabetes or hypoglycemia. Both conditions rely on a balanced glucose level, and can be treated by diet, exercise, and regular testing of blood levels. Often, medication is not necessary if normal glucose levels can be maintained by eating a healthy diet and starting an exercise program.

Those with hypoglycemia have an abnormally low blood sugar.
Those with hypoglycemia have an abnormally low blood sugar.

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