In 2018, about 10.5% of Americans were estimated to have diabetes. Furthermore, about one-fifth of those cases were undiagnosed. It is important that individuals know their risk, and talk to their doctor about screening when it comes to diabetes. So, why is early detection key in diabetes?
Early detection is key in diabetes because early treatment can prevent serious complications. When a problem with blood sugar is found, doctors and patients can take steps to prevent permanent damage to the heart, kidneys, eyes, nerves, blood vessels, and other vital organs.
With simple tests for early detection, patients can make changes to reverse diabetes and even go into remission. Read on to learn more.
Diabetic care often focuses on treatment of the condition. While treatment is important, early detection increases the potential for effective changes early in the disease process.
An article in the Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity journal recognizes that there are many reasons why earlier detection of diabetes could be of benefit to the individual and the health system, because it creates the opportunity to treat the high blood sugar and the risk factors for heart disease that often show up with diabetes. Individuals who don't know that anything is wrong may suffer long-term effects such as cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Furthermore, undiagnosed diabetes often results in potentially preventable, costly complications. Hospital stays could be avoided if patients are aware of their illness and work to manage it.
Diabetes can be expensive. The estimated cost of living with diabetes is around $9,600 per year. This covers prescription medications, diabetic testing supplies, doctors appointments, and hospital care. Medical expenses rise drastically when emergency room visits are needed for unmanaged diabetic complications.
Diabetes is a disease in which your body is not able to efficiently turn the food you eat into energy. Sugar then builds up in the bloodstream. Therefore, two problems arise: the cells are not getting the energy they need, and sugar is accumulating in the blood. High blood sugar, known as hyperglycemia, causes damage to tissues and organs of the body. That is to say, this is why diabetes is a serious condition that can be dangerous.
Normally when you eat, your body breaks food down into sugar molecules, called glucose. After that, the particles get into the bloodstream and your blood glucose level rises, signaling the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin is a hormone that tells body cells to let the glucose inside.
In diabetes, either your pancreas does not make insulin correctly, or your body cells do not react to the insulin the way they should. As a result, glucose stays in the blood, which is why diabetics experience high blood sugar, also known as hyperglycemia. Over time, hyperglycemia can damage nerves and blood vessels.
A blood test can determine if a person has diabetes. Doctors commonly use two tests to check for diabetes.
A glycated hemoglobin test, known as a hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test, measures the glycated form of hemoglobin to determine the three month average of blood sugar. This blood test takes about a minute to perform, and results are generally available in two to three days. A normal HbA1c is below 5.7%. Prediabetes is 5.7 to 6.4%. A result of 6.5% or more is classified as diabetic.
Another way a provider can use a blood test to see if you have diabetes is a fasting blood glucose, or fasting blood sugar (FBS), test. This blood test measures the basal (base) sugar levels of the blood. Testing is usually performed in the morning after the patient has had nothing to eat or drink for eight hours or more. This test may take around ten minutes and results can be immediately available. A normal FBS is 70-100 mg/dl (3.9 - 5.6 mmol/L). The doctor may repeat the fasting blood sugar test or order additional tests to confirm an abnormal blood sugar reading.
Diabetes is a chronic condition which means it may not go away. It is possible, however, to reverse some of the effects of diabetes and go into a remission for those with Type II Diabetes. Remission in diabetes means that your blood sugar levels are within the normal range and you have not required medication to manage your blood sugar for six months or more.
Lifestyle changes like a healthy diet, daily exercise, and weight management can improve the way your body uses insulin and can improve the prognosis for someone diagnosed with diabetes.
Diabetes is a global health problem. Health officials expect that rates will only continue to increase. Risk factors such as family history of diabetes, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle increase likelihood that you may get diabetes and so it is important to be proactive in your health and talk to your doctor about your risk for diabetes. .
If you would like more information on diabetic screening, or want to talk about your risk with one of our board-certified physicians, click to schedule an appointment. My Virtual Physician treats conditions including hyperglycemia, diabetic screening, counseling and more. If you have any suggestions for additional topics you want to read about, let us know! Don’t forget to check out our podcasts for more and follow us on social media.
Colagiuri, Stephen; Davies, Daniel The value of early detection of type 2 diabetes, Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity: April 2009 - Volume 16 - Issue 2 - p 95-99 https://doi: 10.1097/MED.0b013e328329302f
Harris, M. I., & Eastman, R. C. (2000). Early detection of undiagnosed diabetes mellitus: a US perspective. Diabetes/metabolism research and reviews, 16(4), 230–236. https://doi.org/10.1002/1520-7560(2000)9999:9999<::aid-dmrr122>3.0.co;2-w
Narayan, K. M., Chan, J., & Mohan, V. (2011). Early identification of type 2 diabetes: policy should be aligned with health systems strengthening. Diabetes care, 34(1), 244–246. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc10-1952