Testing for Diabetes

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Common tests used to diagnose diabetes include fasting blood sugar tests, the hemoglobin A1C test, home blood sugar tests or the oral glucose tolerance test. Get tips for reducing discomfort when testing blood sugar at home from a family nurse practitioner in this free video on diabetes tests.

Part of the Video Series: Diabetes Symptoms & Treatments
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Video Transcript

You may be wondering what kind of testing is done for diabetes. Hi I'm Amy Bull, Professor and Family Nurse Practitioner at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. The easiest test for diabetes is a fasting blood sugar. This means you haven't had anything to eat or drink for about eight hours before you have the test. Then you go to your healthcare provider's office and you have a blood sample taken either from your finger tip or from a blood draw out of the arm. This will measure your blood sugar or the amount of circulating sugar that is in your blood stream at that moment. Another test is the hemoglobin A1C. This is a special test that is only done for the diabetic patient and can measure your blood sugar average over a 90 day period. As healthcare providers we may ask you to check your blood sugar at home, you can do this by purchasing a device like this at your local pharmacy. When you test your blood sugar at home you will have a small inset that you will also get at the pharmacy and it will ask you to stick your finger. Now I'm going to tell you a trick about doing this that will make it feel a lot better. If you stick the end of your finger which is where most people prick their finger it actually hurts a lot more because of the number of nerve endings that are in the end of the finger so if you will turn your finger to the side and stick your finger in the side area rather than the tip you will have very little discomfort. Another option is to actually check your sugar in your forearm but you need to make sure that you have a special device to do so. Another test is the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test. It's not used as often as a finger stick blood sugar or a blood that is drawn from your arm. The reason we don't use it as often is because of the time that it takes and the fact that it might make you queasy. When you come to the office for an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test you'll be given a glass bottle of sugary substance, usually orange flavored, to drink and you'll have blood draws over the next couple of hours. This test is most frequently done for pregnant patients to determine if they have developed gestational diabetes or the type of diabetes that develops only during pregnancy. It may also be done in offices if you have had what suggests pre-diabetes or you have had a mild elevation of blood sugar but not enough of an elevation to be diagnostic of diabetes. This is actually a more sensitive test.

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