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June 19, 2001

Research: Causes and Prevention

Question from Wampum, Pennsylvania, USA:

My father was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 10 and died of complications at the age of 33. How often should I have my children tested?


There is still a lot of debate about whether there should be screening for diabetes [see below]. I personally feel that there is no need to screen as long as you are aware of the symptoms of diabetes. Anyone with symptoms of diabetes can easily have their urine checked for glucose. It is a very simple test to do. Testing urine in people with no symptoms are unlikely to have diabetes and so unlikely to have glucose in their urine. I would suggest that if their are any symptoms that concern you, have the urine checked, otherwise I would not be too concerned.


[Editor’s comment: Many diabetes specialists feel that testing for diabetes should include blood sugar levels performed by a medical laboratory. The timing of the sample (fasting, random, or postprandial) would influence how high a level is considered abnormal. See Classification and Diagnosis of Diabetes for further information.

Occasionally, lab blood sugar testing might be normal in an early case of diabetes, repeat blood sugar testing at the same or a different time, or performing a glucose tolerance test, might be appropriate if there is a high suspicion of diabetes despite normal initial testing. Another test, the glycosylated hemoglobin, might be used to help confirm a suspected diagnosis of diabetes, but the GHB (also called HbA1c or A1c) is not usually considered as appropriate to make an initial diagnosis. Antibody testing is occasionally done as a screening test in high-risk situations, or as confirmatory of type 1A (autoimmune) diabetes, but is not part of routine testing.

Urine sugar tests or home glucose testing, as discussed by Dr. Schulga, might be positive, which would make the situation more urgent to get lab testing done to confirm the abnormal results. However, urine or home glucose testing, if negative, do not completely exclude diabetes.