Diabetes screening generally involves looking at a number of different questions and tests to determine whether you may be at risk of developing diabetes. It’s important to distinguish between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Here we will discuss screening for type 2 diabetes.
You would generally only undergo diabetes screening if you do not have a current diagnosis of diabetes. However, if you already have diabetes, the screening process could still be useful. For example, you could use some of the following screening methods as a way to gauge how well you’re managing your condition.
There are Some Things You Cannot Change
Not all diabetes screening involves medical exams and clinical tests! You should look at certain risk factors first. Some of these are modifiable (things you can control and change) and some are unmodifiable (things you cannot control). Although you won’t be able to change your unmodifiable risk factors, you must still consider these when you undergo diabetes screening. These factors will give your health practitioner a good baseline from which to assess your risk of developing diabetes.
One of these risk factors is age: unfortunately our risk of diabetes increases as we get older. This is true for everyone. You are also at increased risk of diabetes if you have a family history of the condition. If you have a parent or sibling who has diabetes, it increases your chance of developing it yourself. Certain ethnicities are also more likely to develop diabetes. For example, if you are Chinese, South-East Asian or from the Indian subcontinent, you may be at increased risk.
There are also a number of medical conditions that may predispose you to developing diabetes. These include polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and certain conditions affecting the blood vessels, particularly those around the heart. You should talk to your doctor if you have concerns about your medical history.
It might be starting to sound like there are a lot of things we cannot change, but do not despair! Having these risk factors alone does not mean you will definitely develop diabetes. It just means that you might want to consider undergoing further diabetes screening. You might discover that there’s a lot you can change or, better still, that you’re already doing well at mitigating these risk factors!
Time to Take Control!
If you’ve been following the GlycoLeap blog (you can sign up for weekly emails at the bottom of the page!) you’ll know that there are many ways you can manage diabetes through lifestyle changes. You could make some changes to what you eat, or you could improve the exercise you do. Even your sleeping habits can affect your diabetes management!
Even if you don’t have diabetes, you can still use these strategies for managing diabetes to help decrease your risk of developing the condition. (They are also just great tips for general health and well-being!) And because these are all things you can do something about, it means you can control and minimise the impact of these risk factors.
When you undergo diabetes screening, you will generally have to answer questions about these modifiable risk factors. Your health professional may also ask about whether or not you smoke, and about how much alcohol you drink. These habits can have significant impacts on your health!
Diabetes screening usually also involves having someone measure your weight and waist, as well as taking your blood pressure. If any of these figures are too high, you might have an increased risk of developing diabetes. But remember that these are all changeable! If you want help achieving your health goals, you should check out the GlycoLeap app, which can help you keep track of your diet and exercise.
Tests Involved in Diabetes Screening
If you’ve looked at all these preliminary diabetes screening questions, and found that you have significant risk of developing diabetes, your doctor may suggest a few tests to get a better idea of your actual risk. This might involve giving a small blood sample to check your blood glucose levels, HbA1c, and cholesterol.
You can conduct some of these tests in pharmacies or at home. However, you should always discuss the results with a qualified health professional – talk to your pharmacist or GP.
My Results Indicate I have Pre-diabetes – What Does This Mean?
If your diabetes screening results are above ideal, your doctor might tell you that you have pre-diabetes. It’s important to remember that this is not diabetes, although it could lead to it. Essentially, pre-diabetes means you are likely to develop diabetes, but your measurements and blood results are not high enough to give a definite diagnosis. You can think of this as a warning or a signal that it’s time to make some changes. Pre-diabetes does not always lead to a diagnosis of diabetes.
Should You get Screened/Tested?
So now that you know what’s involved with diabetes screening, should you get tested? Do you know someone who might benefit from being screened for diabetes?
If you have a lot of unmodifiable risk factors, you might find it worthwhile to ask your doctor, pharmacist or other health professional about diabetes screening. If you know that you also have some of the modifiable risk factors discussed above, or if you’re unsure if you’re on the right track, diabetes screening would definitely be beneficial. Not only will you improve your understanding of your overall health, but you may prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.
You can add diabetes screening onto your routine health checks or doctor appointments. Some pharmacies may also be able to provide preliminary diabetes screening services, which may include blood glucose testing.
Once you’ve completed the screening process, it’s time to make the necessary changes (or maintain your health if you actually got pretty good results!) You can repeat the screening procedures – weight measurement, blood pressure check, HbA1c test, etc – at appropriate intervals to check your progress. For example, you might check your weight and waist measurements weekly, and test your HbA1c every 3-6 months. (HbA1c won’t reflect any lifestyle or treatment changes for several months.) It’s all about understanding your health, and knowing what you can do to manage your risk factors!