October 12, 2022

Diabetes: The Different Types & Blood Tests for Diagnosis

Key Takeaways

  • Diabetes is a group of conditions that affects how your body turns food into energy.
  • There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. 
  • There are fasting and non fasting blood tests available to diagnose diabetes available. 
  • The primary way to diagnose diabetes is with the A1C blood test, which measures your average blood sugar level over a period of two to three months.

Diabetes is a life-long, chronic condition that affects nearly 37.3 million Americans across the country. In fact, about 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes, which means you likely know someone who is impacted by this common condition. That’s why it’s important to understand the facts and common questions surrounding diabetes.

In this article, we’ll provide important facts about diabetes, address common questions, and look at ways to get tested for diabetes so you can monitor your health and well-being.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a group of conditions that affects how your body turns food into energy. When you eat, your body breaks down your food into sugar (glucose) that it then releases into your bloodstream for energy. As your blood sugar goes up, your body will signal the pancreas to release a hormone called insulin, which allows the blood sugar to enter the red blood cells to be used as energy.

If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use it effectively, which results in high blood sugar levels in your body. This can lead to serious health problems over time, resulting in conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, or vision loss.

Although there is no cure for diabetes, people can manage the condition with insulin injections, eating a healthy diet, losing weight, and staying active.

How many types of diabetes are there?

There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes. We'll review all three types of diabetes below.

What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where your body’s immune system attacks the beta cells in your pancreas that produce insulin. Type 1 diabetes affects approximately 5-10% of people who have diabetes. Typically, type 1 diabetes is first noticed in early childhood or adolescence, but it can develop in adults.

Some symptoms of type 1 diabetes include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Sudden bed-wetting in children who never wet the bed
  • Blurry vision
  • Feeling very hungry
  • Weight loss without exercise or trying
  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Weakness or feeling tired

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is when your body becomes resistant to insulin, or is not using the hormone efficiently. Approximately 90-95% of individuals with diabetes have type 2. Type 2 diabetes can strain your pancreas, as it now has to work harder to produce more insulin. Over time, this strain can damage cells in the pancreas and could eventually lead to the organ not being able to produce any insulin.

Typically, lifestyle choices lead to this form of diabetes. However, it is possible to have genetic predisposition based on family history, as well as predisposition to developing obesity, which can increase the risk of developing diabetes. Similarly, age and heritage can also be a factor increasing the risk of developing diabetes.

The symptoms for type 2 diabetes can develop slowly over time. That’s why it’s easy to miss or dismiss early symptoms, which can include:

  • Low energy
  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Blurry vision
  • Pain, tingling, or numbness in the hands and feet

As type 2 diabetes progresses, symptoms will become more severe and can lead to more dangerous health complications if left unchecked.

These increased risk factors can include:

  • Kidney disease
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Numbness in your extremities
  • Gum disease

People with type 2 diabetes can manage this disease by checking blood glucose levels regularly and through lifestyle changes like eating healthy, exercising, and proper weight management. Fortunately, it is possible to reverse type 2 diabetes.

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who have never had diabetes. Although gestational diabetes is similar to the other two types of diabetes, this condition is not caused by a lack of insulin. Rather, hormones from the placenta prevent the body from efficiently using insulin.

Fortunately, the complications that can arise from gestational diabetes are manageable and preventable. Pregnant women typically take a glucose tolerance test at around 24 weeks of pregnancy to diagnose gestational diabetes.

What blood test reveals if you have diabetes?

There are several blood tests available that your doctor can use to diagnose diabetes, including: the A1C blood test, random blood glucose test, fasting blood sugar test, and the glucose tolerance test. Depending on the test, you may or may not be asked to fast beforehand.

Non fasting blood tests to diagnose diabetes

  • A1C blood test: The A1C blood test is the primary way to diagnose diabetes. This test measures your average blood sugar level by testing your blood over a period of two to three months. This test only requires a small amount of blood from a vein in your arm. According to the CDC, normal A1C levels are below 5.7%, while prediabetes levels are between 5.7% to 6.4%, and diabetes levels are 6.4% and above.
  • Random blood glucose test: The random blood glucose test is another way to diagnose diabetes. This test can be done with a finger prick or by collecting a blood sample from a vein. However, if you receive a diagnosis from a finger prick test, your doctor will likely request a blood test to confirm the diagnosis.

Fasting blood tests to diagnose diabetes

  • Fasting blood sugar test: Sometimes referred to as a fasting plasma glucose test (FPG), this blood test requires you to fast for at least eight hours before the sample is collected using a vein in your arm.
  • Glucose tolerance test: The glucose tolerance test (GTT) is often used to diagnose gestational diabetes and is administered in two parts. First, a blood sample is collected after fasting for at least eight hours to measure your blood glucose levels. Then, you will drink a sugary drink and wait two hours before having your blood sugar levels measured again.

Learn more about the one-hour glucose test here.

Get Tested for Diabetes at Home with Getlabs

Diagnosing diabetes requires an accurate reading of your blood sugar levels. At-home blood tests provide a convenient way to monitor your health while in the comfort of your own home - and Getlabs can help.

Getlabs will come directly to your home or office to collect samples and deliver them to Labcorp or Quest for processing. This ensures that you can better manage your  health with accurate test results, while not spending time commuting or waiting in a crowded room. To learn more about Getlabs, visit the Getlabs Patient FAQ. To schedule an appointment, simply follow the link below.

We look forward to seeing you.

This page is provided for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute the provision of medical advice or professional services. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, and those seeking personal medical advice regarding any of the tests and conditions referenced above are advised to consult with a licensed clinician. Always seek the advice of your qualified health provider regarding a medical condition and do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information on this page. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or go to the nearest urgent care center or hospital.

Book an at-home lab collection

Getlabs sends a nearby medical specialist to you to collect your labs for Labcorp and Quest. Available same-day, nationwide.

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