Symptoms of diabetes can take time to appear. However, a doctor can detect the condition in its early stages by conducting various medical tests. These tests can detect different forms of diabetes, including type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. In this article, we describe the types of diabetes and the tests that detect them, including their processes and results. We also cover home test kits and when to see a doctor.
Doctors can use a number of different tests to detect type 2 diabetes. In a person with this condition, the body produces insulin but cannot use it effectively.
Hemoglobin a1c. One of the most common diabetes tests is the A1c test. Your doctor may also refer to this as the hemoglobin A1c, HbA1c, or glycated hemoglobin test. It measures the binding of glucose (blood sugar) molecules to hemoglobin, which is a component of red blood cells.
A1c test results indicate a person’s average blood sugar level over 3 months. If this level is greater than 5.7%, it shows that there is a constant and unusually high amount of glucose in the blood, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). A person does not have to fast before this test, which involves taking a small blood sample. A doctor can diagnose diabetes based only on the results of an A1c test. However, the only form of diabetes you can detect is type 2 diabetes.
Fasting plasma glucose test
The Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) test requires that a person not eat or drink for 8 hours before administering a blood sample. The doctor’s office tends to schedule it early in the morning, and the test usually involves taking blood from a finger, what some health professionals call a “prick test,” or from a vein in the arm.
Random plasma glucose test
A random plasma glucose (RPG) test also tends to involve a finger or drawing blood from a vein in the arm. The main difference between this test and a FPG test is that an RPG test does not require the person to fast in preparation.
Type 1 diabetes can be difficult to diagnose. It develops when the body does not produce enough insulin, a hormone it needs to process blood sugar. Without treatment, type 1 diabetes can cause a person’s blood sugar levels to skyrocket. Treatment consists of injecting insulin. If a doctor suspects type 1 diabetes, he will check to see if a person is experiencing its symptoms, which can include extreme fatigue and flu-like symptoms.
The doctor may also use the following tests:
- FPG: This blood test indicates how well the body processes glucose.
Oral glucose tolerance test: For this test, a person will need to fast and then drink a solution that contains glucose. Then a healthcare professional will measure your blood sugar levels every hour for 2–3 hours.
- A1c: This test can indicate average blood sugar levels in the past 3 months, but the results may be incorrectly low in people with type 1 diabetes.
If the results are inconclusive, the doctor may order any of the following tests:
- Peptide C: The pancreas produces this protein along with insulin. Low levels of C-peptide in the blood may suggest low insulin levels.
Insulin autoantibodies: This test checks for the presence of proteins that attack and destroy insulin.
- Glutamic acid decarboxylase autoantibodies: Doctors use this test to check for the presence of antibodies that can destroy enzymes in insulin-producing cells.
- 2 insulin-associated autoantibodies: The presence of these antibodies may also indicate that the body is attacking the cells that produce insulin.
Islet cell cytoplasmic autoantibodies: The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation estimates that 80% of people with type 1 diabetes have this type of antibody.
- Zinc Support 8 This test identifies antibodies that kill insulin-producing beta cells.