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Diabetes Tests & Diagnosis

Humans rely on a sugar known as glucose in order to function. The liver, bodily muscles and foods we eat dispense glucose into the bloodstream and the cells take it in and metabolize it. A chemical made in the pancreas, known as insulin, is needed to assist the cells in glucose absorption. If an insufficient amount of insulin is produced, or if the insulin is not functioning suitably, the cells won’t absorb glucose as needed. This will cause a build up of glucose in the blood stream (high blood sugar) that can lead to a common disease known as diabetes.

(If you live in Alabama, we are currently enrolling people for our diabetes clinical trial in Birmingham, AL.)

People of all ages and with all sorts of dietary habits can get diabetes (these are the symptoms of diabetes). There are eight types of diabetes, each of which is a result of glucose build-up in the bloodstream:

  • Pre-Diabetes
  • Type I diabetes
  • Type II diabetes
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Congenital diabetes
  • Cystic fibrosis-related diabetes
  • Steroid diabetes
  • Monogenic diabetes

The four most popular types of diabetes are the following:

  • Pre-diabetes is the condition in which the blood glucose levels are higher than normal standards, but not high enough to qualify for a diabetes diagnosis. Patients with pre-diabetes have a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and developing type II diabetes.
  • Type I diabetes is the condition when the beta cells of the pancreas stop producing insulin in response to the attack upon them by the immune system. Type I diabetes (formerly known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes) is usually diagnosed in children, teenagers and young adults.
  • Type II diabetes (formerly known as adult-onset diabetes or noninsulin-dependent diabetes) results when insulin resistance takes place and fat, muscle and liver cells are not properly using insulin. A person has developed type II diabetes when his pancreas becomes incapable of secreting enough insulin to keep up with all the glucose flooding his bloodstream after he has eaten a meal.
  • Gestational diabetes can occur during pregnancy as a result of hormonal changes or a deficiency of insulin. Gestational diabetes usually disappears once the pregnancy is over and the baby is born.

(see also: The Difference Between Type I and Type II Diabetes and Drugs Used for Diabetes)

Tests used to diagnose diabetes:

  • The fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test measures the amount of glucose in the bloodstream in a person who has not eaten for eight hours or more. The FPG test is the most convenient and inexpensive test to perform, so it is used most for testing. However, the FPG is not as precise as the OGTT. The FPG is most reliable when conducted in the morning after a person has fasted all night and has not yet eaten breakfast. If a person has 126 mg/dL of glucose in his bloodstream, the test should be re-administered another day to confirm the diagnosis of diabetes. This test is used to diagnose type I diabetes, type II diabetes and pre-diabetes.
  • The oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) measures the amount of glucose in the bloodstream of a person who has not eaten for at least eight hours, and then drinks a heavily glucose-concentrated drink two hours before the OGTT. If a person has 200 mg/dL of glucose in his bloodstream, the test should be re-administered another day to confirm the diagnosis of diabetes. This test is used to diagnose type I diabetes, type II diabetes, pre-diabetes and gestational diabetes.
  • The random plasma glucose test/casual plasma glucose test measures the amount of glucose in the bloodstream of a person without fasting. If a person has 200 mg/dL of glucose in his bloodstream plus increased urination, increased thirst and unexplained unusual weight loss, the test should be re-administered another day to confirm the diagnosis of diabetes. This test is used to diagnose type I diabetes and type II diabetes.

Sticking to a healthy diet, keeping cholesterol and blood pressure in check and engaging in physical activity are ways that all people can help prevent or treat diabetes. There is no vaccine or pill that cures diabetes, but there are many clinical trials underway to discover one. Diabetes is a life-altering disease, but it can be managed. Speak to your health care provider to discuss the best approach to manage your case.

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