Sixteen million Americans have diabetes, yet many are not aware of it. African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans have a higher rate of developing diabetes during their lifetime. Diabetes has potential long term complications that can affect the kidneys, eyes, heart, blood vessels and nerves.
In diagnosing diabetes, physicians primarily depend upon the results of specific glucose tests. However, test results are just part of the information that goes into the diagnosis of diabetes. Doctors also take into account your physical exam, presence or absence of symptoms, and medical history. Some people who are significantly ill will have transient problems with elevated blood sugars which will then return to normal after the illness has resolved. Also, some medications may alter your blood glucose levels (most commonly steroids and certain diuretics (water pills)).
The TWO main tests used to measure the presence of blood sugar problems are:
1. Direct measurement of glucose levels in the blood during an overnight fast
2. Measurement of the body’s ability to appropriately handle the excess sugar presented after drinking a high glucose drink.
Self Testing Methods
Regular self-testing of your blood sugar tells you how well your combination of diet, exercise, and medication are working. Tests are usually done before meals and at bedtime. More frequent testing may be needed when you are sick or under stress.
A device called a Glucometer can provide an exact blood sugar reading. There are different types of devices. Usually, you prick your finger with a small needle called a lancet, which gives you a tiny drop of blood. You place the blood on a test strip, and put the strip into the device. Results are available within 30 to 45 seconds.
A health care provider or diabetes educator will help set up an appropriate testing schedule for you. You will also be taught how to respond to different ranges of glucose values obtained when you self-test.
The results of the test can be used to adjust meals, activity, or medications to keep blood sugar levels in an appropriate range. Testing provides valuable information for the health care provider and identifies high and low blood sugar levels before serious problems develop. Accurate record keeping of test results will help you and your health care provide plan how to best control your diabetes. There are 20.8 million children and adults in the US with diabetes, and nearly one-third of them (or 6.2 million people) do not know it!