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August 7, 1999

Diagnosis and Symptoms

Question from Tallahassee, Florida, USA:

How do doctors tell if someone has actual diabetes as opposed to transient hyperglycemia? What tests are performed? How routine is antibody testing?

Answer:

It can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between transient rises in glucose and true diabetes, as in children especially there may be a slight rise in blood glucose with stress (illness, infection, etc.). The most sensitive way of telling is probably by performing a glucose tolerance test, which gives a clue as to whether there is a lack of insulin. The glycosylated haemoglobin will also tell if the raised glucose is short or long-term.

Regarding testing for antibodies, we do not tend to check antibodies routinely in the UK as they do not add to the care of a person with diabetes. They are checked in research when you wish to look at risk of developing diabetes.

JS