How is Diabetes Diagnosed?
Many people present clear symptoms while others show no symptoms, so it’s important for those who believe they may have diabetes, or be at risk of diabetes, to consult a healthcare professional as soon as possible. Early diagnosis can lead to early treatment, which can prevent long-term complications from the disease including nerve damage, cardiovascular disease and in some severe cases, loss of limbs.
Do I need to be tested for diabetes?
If you think you may be at risk, there are a number of initial tests that can be undertaken including a finger prick test and urine glucose test. These simple methods are easily accessible in most pharmacies and can determine whether further action is required. While these methods provide an indication of whether you may have diabetes, a blood test will be necessary to confirm diagnosis.
It is recommended that those over the age of 45 and who may be overweight or have a family history of diabetes should be tested at least every three years. In addition, regular testing is also recommended for those under 45 if they are overweight and have other risk factors such as family history, gestational diabetes, or high blood pressure.
How to test for Diabetes?
Following a referral from a doctor, you may be presented with two different options to confirm a diabetes diagnosis – the A1C test or a blood glucose test.
Glycated Haemoglobin (A1C) test
The Glycated Haemoglobin (A1C) test is a blood test to determine an individual’s average blood sugar level over the past two to three months. How to interpret your results:
- Below 5.7 per cent (39 mmol/mol) – normal
- 5 per cent (48mmol/mol) or higher on two separate tests – indicates diabetes
- Between 5.7 per cent and 6.5 per cent (39-48 mmol/mol) – indicates pre-diabetes and those in the high-risk category
Some people are unable to be tested using the A1C test and should be diagnosed through the Fasting Plasmas Glucose test. This may include people who are pregnant, or those who have a variant form of the iron-containing protein compound within the red blood cells (known as a haemoglobin variant).
Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) blood test
The Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) blood test determines if the individual has diabetes from their blood sugar levels by fasting for at least eight hours. How to interpret your results:
- Blood sugar level less than 5.5 mmol/L – normal
- Blood sugar level above 7 mmol/L on two separate tests – signifies diagnosis
What happens after testing?
Those diagnosed with diabetes may require further testing to determine whether they have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. These tests including testing for ketones, a by-product from the breakdown of fat found in urine, which signify that the diagnosis is Type 1 diabetes rather than Type 2. While the two conditions present similar symptoms, they do require different forms of treatment.