Type 2 Diabetes Screening

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on August 19, 2021

Type 2 diabetes is a common and serious disease in the United States and worldwide. However, it’s thought that one-third of those with type 2 diabetes are unaware that they have this serious illness. Because often there are no symptoms with type 2 diabetes, early screening may help people avoid the more serious complications of this disease, including chronic hyperglycemia that’s associated with long-term damage of the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart, and blood vessels. Persons with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes have a significantly higher risk for stroke, coronary heart disease, and peripheral vascular disease. Individuals with diabetes also have a greater likelihood of abnormal cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity.

Who Should Be Screened for Diabetes?

According to the American Diabetes Association, all patients should be screened for diabetes at three-year intervals beginning at age 45, especially people who are overweight or obese. If multiple risk factors are present, screening should be done at an earlier age and more frequently. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that adults with high blood pressure or high cholesterol be screened for type 2 diabetes (insulin-resistant diabetes) in an effort to reduce cardiovascular disease.

What Are the Diabetes Risk Factors?

Common risk factors for diabetes include:

  • Family history of diabetes (parents or siblings with diabetes)
  • Overweight (a body mass index equal to or greater than 25)
  • Habitual physical inactivity
  • Race/ethnicity (including African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, and Pacific Islanders)
  • History of impaired fasting glucose (IFG) or impaired glucose tolerance (IGT)
  • High blood pressure (equal to or greater than 140/90 in adults)
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome

What Test Is Used to Screen for Diabetes?

The fasting plasma glucose test (FPG) or the hemoglobin A1C test can be used for screening.

What if the Diabetes Screening Test Is Negative?

If the screening test for diabetes is negative, continue to have follow-up screening tests every three years or as recommended by your doctor. However, your doctor may do further screening tests for diabetes if they suspect that you have diabetes or prediabetes and your initial screening result is negative.

In addition, you can lower your chances of getting diabetes by losing weight, keeping your blood pressure and lipids at normal levels, and exercising regularly.

What if the Diabetes Screening Test Is Positive?

If the screening test for diabetes is positive, you may need further testing to ensure an accurate diagnosis. Your doctor may prescribe medication, along with a diet, regular exercise regimen, and lifestyle program, to help you manage your blood sugar and prevent serious problems.

Show Sources

American Diabetes Association (ADA): "Diabetes Risk Test."
ADA: "Type 2 Diabetes."
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC): "Diabetes Prevention Program."

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