Could You Be an Undiagnosed Diabetic?

Could you be an undiagnosed diabetic? According to a recent article published in Family Practice News, almost four percent of Americans have undiagnosed diabetes, a condition that increases the risk of medical complications involving almost every organ of the body and significantly elevates the odds of dying prematurely. This is one disease you want to know about so it can be controlled before it wreaks havoc on the body.

Who’s at Risk for Undiagnosed Diabetes?

To determine the incidence of undiagnosed diabetes, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey looked at the hemoglobin A1C levels of 15,934 adults. Hemoglobin A1C is a blood test that determines how well blood sugars were controlled over the prior three months period. Unfortunately, 3.8% failed the test by having hemoglobin A1C levels above 6%, an abnormal value that indicates poor blood sugar control. In this survey, undiagnosed diabetes was more common in older males, obese individuals, and those with an elevated cholesterol level.  

Why Were Hemoglobin A1C Levels Used?

Hemoglobin A1C levels were measured instead of blood sugar levels because  they’re more sensitive and specific for diabetes and no fasting is required for the test. Some experts believe that hemoglobin A1C levels should be the standard screening test for diabetes rather than blood sugar levels which are more variable and can be influenced by other factors such as an underlying infection or illness. Hemoglobin A1C measurements give a better picture of blood sugar levels over a three month period which is more important than the results of a single blood sugar reading.

Why is Screening for Undiagnosed Diabetes So Important?

Detecting this disease early and getting treatment can reduce the risk of diabetes related complications and add additional disease-free years to life. Undiagnosed diabetes can be completely asymptomatic while quietly doing its damage to the kidneys, heart, eyes, arteries, and nerves, causing disability and eventually death. Diabetes truly is a silent killer. One advantage of measuring a hemoglobin A1C level is it is a fairly good predictor of future diabetic complications. When the hemoglobin A1C level rises above 6.0, the likelihood of damage to the small arteries in the back of the eye, brain, heart, kidneys, and extremities is higher.

Does Everyone Need to Be Screen for Undiagnosed Diabetes?

While it’s important that all Americans be screened for undiagnosed diabetes, it’s of particular importance for people who have a strong family history of the disease or who are obese. If you fall into one of these categories or if you have other risk factors such as hypertension or heart disease, it’s important to be screened with a fasting blood sugar or hemoglobin A1C level. Detecting diabetes early and making the necessary lifestyle changes could add many years to your life.

Call a HealthwoRx™ physician at 954.967.6550 to schedule a consultation today.