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The Importance of Diabetes Screening

Having untreated or unmonitored diabetes can pose a serious health risk. The condition itself is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., and 34.2 million adults have been diagnosed. Unfortunately, one in five adults don’t even know they have diabetes. Getting properly diagnosed through diabetes screening can help your doctor develop an effective treatment plan so you can live a long, healthy life.

What is Diabetes?

When all is functioning normally, much of the food we eat gets broken down into sugar, or glucose, that signals the pancreas to release insulin. The insulin allows the blood sugar to enter our cells for energy. When you have diabetes, your body either does not produce enough insulin, or the body isn’t using the insulin as well as it should, depending on which type you have. Because of this, too much glucose remains in the bloodstream, and if not properly managed, can lead to heart disease, vision loss, or kidney disease.

There are three main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1: Often diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults, it’s thought to be caused by the body attacking itself, halting the production of insulin. Symptoms usually develop quickly, and most people require daily insulin for survival.
  • Type 2: This often takes years to develop and is the result of the body not using insulin properly to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Any age can develop type 2, and it may not present any symptoms. It can be prevented with simple, healthy lifestyle changes, like weight loss, a healthy diet, and physical activity.
  • Gestational: Develops only in pregnant women who did not previously have diabetes. While it typically goes away after the baby is born, it increases the woman’s risk of developing type 2 later in life. It also presents health risks for the baby both during the pregnancy and later in life, as well. Many women are able to manage this during pregnancy with proper diet, although some may require insulin injections.

Who Should Get Screened for Diabetes

Diabetes can cause an array of complications, so early diagnosis is critical. While type 1 diabetes develops sudden symptoms, type 2 and gestational diabetes often will only be diagnosed through screening. Per the American Diabetes Association (ADA), all adults age 45 and older should be screened for type 2 diabetes every three years. However, individuals who are considered overweight may require earlier and more frequent screening if any of the other risk factors are present, including:

  • A parent or sibling with diabetes
  • Lack of regular physical activity
  • Being African-American, Hispanic-American, Native-American, Asian-American, or Pacific Islander
  • A history of blood glucose issues
  • Previously had gestational diabetes or gave birth to a baby over 9 pounds
  • High blood pressure
  • Cholesterol issues
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • A history of vascular disease

Your doctor will help you determine if you should receive diabetic screening and how often it should be repeated.

How is Diabetes Screening Performed

There are two ways doctors are able to test for diabetes:

  • Fasting Plasma Glucose Test: This is a simple blood draw that is done after you have been fasting for a specific amount of time – usually at least 8 hours. The sample is sent to the lab where they check the glucose level in your blood. A level higher than 125 mg/dL could indicate you have diabetes, so a repeat test may be required to confirm diagnosis.
  • Oral Glucose Tolerance Test: For this test, you are provided a sugary solution to drink one to two hours before a blood draw. Drinking this prior to the test allows doctors to see how well your body is processing blood sugar. If you have a result of 200 mg/dL or higher, a repeat test will need to be performed at a later time for confirmation.

Diabetes screening is often an important part of a biometric health screening, which looks at your overall health numbers, too, like cholesterol, heart rate, body fat, and more. These tests are an important part of your healthcare, and are recommended for every adult every five years.

If it has been a while since your last biometric health screening or glucose test, stop by one of our convenient Midwest Express Clinic locations today. We can help you learn your numbers, and recommend necessary treatment or management plans to minimize your risk of developing diabetes.