Diabetes screening: Get tested for diabetes with an A1C check

Getting screened before signs and symptoms develop leads to earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Diabetes mellitus is one of the most common diagnoses made by healthcare providers. A recent report suggests that people who had COVID-19 could experience a variety of health issues afterward, including diabetes. Whether or not a person has had COVID-19, it’s important to be screened regularly for diabetes, especially if the person has higher risks.

Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to blindness, limb amputation, kidney failure, and vascular and heart disease. Getting screened before signs and symptoms develop leads to earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Who should get a diabetes screening?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening for abnormal blood glucose and Type 2 diabetes in adults 40 to 70 years old who are overweight or obese, and repeating testing every three years if results are normal.

“People at a higher risk for developing diabetes should be screened starting earlier and more often,” said Natasha E. Railton, M.S., RDN, CDCES, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist with Norton Healthcare.

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The American Diabetes Association recommends screening for Type 2 diabetes annually in patients 45 years and older, or in patients younger than 45 years with major risk factors.

Which screening is used to detect diabetes?

“The main diabetes screening tool we use is the A1C,” said Natasha. The A1C screening is a simple blood test that measures average blood sugar levels over the past three months. It’s one of the commonly used tests to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes, and is also the main test to help you and your health care team manage your diabetes. Higher A1C levels are linked to diabetes complications, so reaching and maintaining a healthy A1C is important if you have diabetes.

For the A1C test, a health care provider takes a blood sample. This is done by inserting a needle into a vein. The blood sample is sent to a lab for analysis. Results are usually available in a few minutes.

What does the A1C screen measure?

When sugar enters your bloodstream, it attaches to hemoglobin, a protein in your red blood cells.

“Everyone has some sugar attached to their hemoglobin,” Natasha said. “People with higher blood sugar levels have more. The A1C test measures the percentage of your red blood cells that have sugar-coated hemoglobin.”

How can I get tested for diabetes?

An A1C test can be done by many health care providers, including your primary care provider or a prompt care clinic.

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