Diabetes | Diagnosis & Tests

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Why is it important to prevent, diagnose and treat diabetes?

Untreated diabetes causes blood sugar levels to rise. This can lead to a number of serious problems, including:

  • Eye damage that can cause blindness
  • Kidney failure
  • Heart attacks
  • Nerve and blood vessel damage that can lead to the loss of toes or feet
  • Problems with gums, including tooth loss

The longer the body is exposed to high blood sugar levels, the greater the risk that problems will occur. That’s why treatment is important at any age. Keeping blood sugar levels very close to the ideal can minimize, delay and, in some cases, even prevent the problems that diabetes can cause.

How is diabetes diagnosed?

Your doctor may test for diabetes if he or she suspects you are at risk. To check for diabetes, your doctor may request the following tests:

  • Fasting blood sugar test. This test is usually done in the morning, after an 8-hour fast. This means that you shouldn’t eat any foods or drink any liquids except for water for 8 hours before the test. At the end of the fast, a doctor or nurse measure the amount of glucose in your blood. If your blood sugar level is 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher, your doctor will probably want to repeat the test. A blood sugar level of 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher on 2 occasions indicates diabetes. Test results from 100 mg per dL to 125 mg per dL suggest prediabetes.
  • Oral glucose tolerance test. During this test, you will drink a beverage containing 75 grams of glucose dissolved in water. Two hours later, a doctor or nurse will measure the amount of glucose in your blood. A blood sugar level of 200 mg/dL or higher indicates diabetes.
  • Random blood sugar test. This test measures the level of glucose in your blood at any time of day, regardless of when you last ate. Combined with symptoms of diabetes, a blood glucose level of 200 mg/dL or higher indicates diabetes.

Bibliography

See a list of resources used in the development of this information.

Source
Portions of this article were developed by the American Academy of Family Physicians in cooperation with the American Diabetes Association.

Portions of this article were developed as part of an educational program made possible by an unrestricted educational grant from LifeScan, Inc., makers of OneTouch Blood Glucose Meters.

Portions of this article were developed with general underwriting support from The Coca-Cola Company.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 05/14
Created: 01/99

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