A better diabetes test
Wednesday, September 8th, 2010
About five to six million people in the U.S. have diabetes and don’t know it. Millions more are at risk for developing the disease. That has left experts scrambling to find a simpler but still effective screening test.
Recently the American Diabetes Association and other health groups proposed a new screening test to identify undiagnosed diabetics.
But an Emory University study finds relying on the hemoglobin A1c test for initial screening would miss millions with diabetes and pre-diabetes.
Study author Darin Olson says the A1c test was pitched as a less cumbersome alternative because patients do not have to fast first.
Olson: Although it would be attractive to be able to diagnose diabetes easier with just a single blood test done at any time of the day, it appears that the hemoglobin A1c would not be able to diagnose early diabetes as often as the more complicated glucose tolerance test.
An oral glucose tolerance test is the standard screening tool. Patients typically fast overnight. When they arrive at the testing lab they are given a super sugary drink and then wait two hours before their blood is drawn.
When doctors prescribe that test, many patients fail to follow through.
About 8 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes, and experts say the economic and health toll is staggering since it is linked to heart and kidney disease.