Early detection and regular treatment are crucial to help people with diabetes live a healthy life. It is also an important step towards preventing risks associated with uncontrolled diabetes, such as kidney disease, vision loss, limb amputations, stroke and heart disease.
Diabetes Prone People
Although the risk of diabetes increases with age, diabetes can also occur in children and young adults. Individuals having an immediate relative with type 1 diabetes can end up diabetic too, though such instances are uncommon.
Other factors that make you vulnerable to diabetes, particularly type 2, are:
- Obesity or being overweight
- Having a BMI higher than 25 (23 for Asian-Americans)
- Having prediabetes
- Insulin resistance
- A history of gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a disease occurring in women
- Older than 45 years of age
- Abnormal triglyceride or HDL cholesterol levels
You are at a higher risk of diabetes if you belong to certain ethnicities, such as:
- Native Americans
- Hispanic Americans
- Pacific Islanders
Types of Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes — Type 1 diabetes is a metabolic disease that mainly occurs during childhood and adolescence. In this condition, the pancreas stops producing insulin due to an autoimmune reaction (immune system starts killing healthy, insulin-producing cells). There is no prevention or cure for type 1 diabetes.
Type 2 Diabetes — In type 2 diabetes, the body does make insulin, but either can’t produce enough or fails to use it effectively in managing blood glucose. People who develop type 2 diabetes usually have undiagnosed or uncontrolled prediabetes.
Gestational Diabetes — Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy, and the symptoms subside after the birth of the baby. This puts both the baby and the mother at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Tests for Diabetes
If the risk factors associated with diabetes ring true for you or you suspect prediabetes, regular screening is recommended. A simple blood test can help you identify if you’re at risk.
You should also get tested if you experience early diabetes symptoms. These include increased thirst, frequent urination, reduced energy level and slow healing of wounds. You may also experience pain or tingling sensation/numbness in hands and feet.
Glycated Hemoglobin (A1C) Test
A1C is one of the most common tests that measure the level of glucose attached to the red blood cells. It doesn’t require fasting. The test gives you an average blood sugar level over two to three months. The results come in percentage and are read as follows:
- Normal: below 5.7%
- Prediabetes: a borderline result of 5.7 to 6.4%
- Diabetes: an A1C level equal to or higher than 6.5%on two separate tests
In specific conditions, such as pregnancy or having an uncommon form of hemoglobin, alternative tests are recommended to reach an accurate diagnosis.
Random Blood Sugar Test
The test involves drawing blood for a sample at a random time without taking your meal times into consideration. If the results show a range of 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher, it indicates you have diabetes.
Fasting Blood Sugar Test
The blood sample for a fasting blood sugar test is taken after the person has fasted for eight to 12 hours, usually overnight. The results can be:
- Normal: less than 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
- Prediabetes: between 100 mg/dl to 125 mg/dl
- Diabetes: equal to or higher than 200 mg/dL
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT)
The OGTT requires you to fast overnight. The initial sample of fasting blood is taken for analysis. Then you will be given a sugary liquid to drink. The blood samples will be drawn again periodically over the next two consecutive hours to test the blood sugar levels. The results of OGTT can be:
- Normal: if less than 140 mg/dl
- Prediabetes: if between140 mg/dl to 199 mg/dl
- Diabetes: if equal or higher than 200 mg/dl
Tests for Gestational Diabetes
Before prescribing tests for gestational diabetes, your doctor will first evaluate you for common risk factors. These include:
- Excess weight around the midriff, particularly at the start of pregnancy
- A history of gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy
- Having a parent, sibling, or child with diabetes
- Age of 35 years or above
- Accelerated fetal growth
- Preeclampsia or hypertension in the current pregnancy
Initial Glucose Challenge Test
The initial glucose challenge begins with taking a glucose drink. An hour later, a blood test is conducted to ascertain the blood sugar level. If the result shows a higher than 140 mg/dl level, this means you’re at risk of gestational diabetes. To reach a confirmed diagnosis, your doctor will call you for a follow-up test.
Follow-Up Glucose Tolerance Testing
The follow-up study requires you to fast overnight and then get your fasting blood measured. Post the test, you’ll be given a sweet drink with a higher concentration of glucose. Your blood sugar level will then be measured again every hour over three consecutive hours.
If the results turn out to be higher than normal in at least two studies, you will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes and will be required to follow the prescribed treatment.
Treatment for Type 1 Diabetes
Treatment for any diabetes focuses on managing the blood sugar levels closer to the normal ranges. For type 1 diabetes, the treatment basically involves:
- Regularly monitoring blood sugar levels
- Keeping a check on carbohydrate, fat and protein
- Taking insulin for survival, either through injection or insulin pumps
- Making healthy dietary choices, particularly nutritious, low-fat, high-fiber foods
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising regularly
Also, focus on regulating your blood sugar levels before and after every meal. It should be:
- Between 80 and 130 mg/dL (4.44 to 7.2 mmol/L) before meals
- No higher than 180 mg/dL (10 mmol/L) two hours after eating
Aside from these measures, your doctor will prescribe additional medications, such as:
- A high blood pressure medicine for protecting your kidneys
- Aspirin to encourage healthy heart functioning
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs
Treatment for Type 2 Diabetes
Treatment for type 2s varies depending on age and individual health conditions. Your doctor will help you determine whether lifestyle and dietary changes are enough, or you’ll need medication to keep your diabetes under control. You’ll also be educated on identifying symptoms that arise with high and low blood sugar levels and what you must do in each situation. Although not every person with type 2 diabetes needs insulin therapy, the doctor may recommend you to take insulin in case your pancreas is not producing enough of it.
Also, regularly monitor your blood sugar levels and control weight to ensure your heart health. Take meals on time and avoid overeating. Avoid salty or fried foods, and choose nutritious, low-fat, high-fiber foods instead as well as foods with omega-3 fatty acids.