Should You Be Screened for Diabetes?

Diabetes is not a disease for the “faint of heart,” especially if you don’t get it under control. Then it can lead to blindness, kidney failure, loss of limbs, and heart disease.1 All this and maybe more, just because of a glitch in how your body handles blood sugar! 

Symptoms of diabetes mayinclude:

  • Frequent thirst or peeing
  • Fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Cuts or sores that don’t heal
  • Numbness
  • Tingling1 

But diabetes may cause no symptoms. So how can you know if you have it? That’s where screening comes in.

Screening for type 2 diabetes. Doctors don’t suggest screening for type 1 diabetes. One reason is because symptoms often rear their ugly heads early. So screening isn’t needed. But type 2 diabetes is another story. With this type, your body doesn’t use insulin well. Screening may make a difference in the quality of your life. That’s because lifestyle changes and medications can slow the progress of the disease.1 But up to one-third with type 2 diabetes don’t know they have it.2 

Screening guidelines. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening for high blood sugar and type 2 diabetes if you are 40 to 70 and are overweight or obese. For this test, you have your blood drawn to check sugar levels. You may or may not have to fast before the test.3 If the results are a concern, your doctor may suggest a second test. 

The USPSTF also recommends:

  • If your results are normal, repeat testing every three years.
  • If you are at higher risk, think about getting screened sooner and more often.1 

However, a recent study showed that these guidelines may miss half those with diabetes as well as those with prediabetes, a condition that may develop into diabetes.4 

That’s why the American Diabetes Association (ADA) has stricter guidelines. It recommends screening for type 2 diabetes every year in patients 45 years and older. But the ADA also recommends screening patients with major risk factors who are younger than 45.1  

Higher-risk groups. Major risk factors may include: 

  • A family history of type 2 diabetes
  • A history of diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes)
  • A hormonal disorder causing problems in the ovaries (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
  • Certain racial and ethnic minorities4 

Why the need to screen younger adults? Here’s a big reason: The rate of undiagnosed diabetes in adults 20 to 44 is almost 60 percent higher than in adults as a whole.5 In addition, undiagnosed diabetes is much higher in Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Black Americans than in non-Hispanic whites. Also, about half of women who have had gestational diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes.5 Patients who don’t have health insurance or receive regular health care may also be falling through the cracks.6 

Do you see yourself in one of these high-risk groups? Regardless, let’s talk about whether it’s time for you to get screened. It isn’t any fun finding out you have a disease like diabetes. But it’s a lot less fun to develop complications of the disease. The sooner you start taking steps to control diabetes, the better.  

Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice.  You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.

Sources

  1. AAFP: Diabetes Mellitus: Screening and Diagnosis. Available at: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2016/0115/p103.html Accessed 9-21-18. (2)
  2. WebMD: Type 2 Diabetes: The Basics. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/type-2-diabetes#1  Accessed 9-21-18.
  3. AAFP: Screening for Abnormal Blood Glucose and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Recommendation Statement. Available at: https://www.aafp.org/afp/2016/0115/od1.html Accessed 9-21-18. (5)
  4. Medscape: Prediabetes, Diabetes Screening Criteria Miss Half of Patients. (3) Available at: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/895523 Accessed 9-21-18. (3)
  5. ADA: The American Diabetes Association Disappointed in Scope of New Screening Guidelines for Type 2 Diabetes and Pleased with Expansion of Lifestyle Interventions. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/newsroom/press-releases/2015/uspstf-new-screening-guidelines-for-type-2-diabetes.html  Accessed 9-21-18. (4)
  6. NPR: Screening for Diabetes Is Working Better Than Thought.” Available at https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/10/23/559486787/screening-for-diabetes-is-working-better-than-thought  Accessed 9-21-18. (1)

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