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Why have a diabetes test?
What is diabetes?
Diabetes affects nearly 24 million people and is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. A diagnosis of diabetes means that your body is either not producing or not using insulin as effectively as it should. Insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas, is used to convert sugar (glucose) into the energy your body needs. When you have diabetes, sugars build up in your blood stream. If left untreated, these elevated sugars can damage your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, nerves, and eyes.
There are two primary forms of diabetes—type 1 and type 2. Five to 10 percent of people with diabetes have type 1, a form of the disease predominately found in children and young adults. Type 2, the most common form of diabetes, is usually diagnosed in adults, primarily in those older than age 55. However, because 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight, as the rate of obesity has risen in children, so has the number of children who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Why have a diabetes test?
Of the 23.6 million people suffering from diabetes in the U.S., nearly 6 million are unaware they have the disease and another 57 million people have pre-diabetes. The disease can develop slowly and complications may be present by the time the diagnosis is made.
Most people first become aware of their diabetes through a routine blood test or a blood test done for another condition. Different tests detect diabetes, including a random sugar test (normally part of a routine blood test) or a fasting plasma glucose test. Because blood sugar is affected dramatically by diet, the fasting test is the preferred method for diagnosis.
Who should be screened for diabetes?
All adults should have a fasting glucose test at age 45. If diabetes is not detected, the test probably does not have to be repeated for three years. However, you should discuss with your physician the best screening schedule based on your risk factors. For example, your physician may wish to test you more frequently if you are overweight or have a family history of diabetes. In addition, African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic Americans are at a higher risk than Caucasians.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
Most people with type 2 diabetes do not recognize the symptoms because the disease develops slowly. When you have too much blood sugar or glucose in your body, it can draw water from the body’s tissues. Hence, many of the symptoms of diabetes are a direct result of your body’s reaction to this dehydration.
- Excessive thirst
- Extreme hunger
- Unexplained weight loss or gain. As your body tries to compensate for the loss of fluids and sugar, you may have the urge to eat more and gain weight. Alternatively, because your muscles are not receiving the glucose they need, you may lose weight as your body burns stored calories to create energy.
- Blurred vision
- Extreme fatigue and irritability
- Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet caused by nerve damage
- Very dry skin
- Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal.