February 05, 2024

A Patient's Guide to Diabetes Lab Testing

Being newly diagnosed with diabetes can be overwhelming, but understanding the importance of regular diabetes testing is a crucial step towards effective management. Diabetes testing is not only a means of tracking your condition but also a tool for taking control of your health and making informed decisions about your treatment. Living with diabetes is a reality for over 34 million Americans, so if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you’re not alone ¹.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 96 million Americans have prediabetes, and a staggering 80% of them are unaware of their condition ². Getting your diagnosis is an important first step. Since untreated diabetes can lead to long-term health issues, it’s imperative to understand and manage this serious disease.

Diabetes Testing

Testing for diabetes is straightforward and typically involves a blood test. Several types of blood tests can help diagnose and manage diabetes:

  • Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c): This test measures the average blood sugar levels over the past 2-3 months. It provides a good overview of how well diabetes is being managed. For most people with diabetes, this test is done every 3-6 months.
  • Fasting Blood Sugar (FBS): This test measures blood sugar levels after an overnight fast. It helps assess how well blood sugar is controlled in the morning and can be done at regular intervals.
  • Postprandial Blood Sugar (PPBS): Also known as a 2-hour post-meal glucose test, it measures blood sugar levels 2 hours after a meal. It helps evaluate how the body processes glucose after eating.
  • Random Blood Sugar Test: This test measures blood sugar levels at any time during the day and doesn’t require fasting. It’s often used to check for immediate blood sugar levels or during episodes of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
  • C-peptide Test: This test measures the level of C-peptide, a molecule released when insulin is produced. It helps determine how much insulin the pancreas is still producing, which can be useful in distinguishing between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
  • Lipid Profile: This test assesses cholesterol levels, including LDL (bad cholesterol), HDL (good cholesterol), and triglycerides. It’s important for assessing cardiovascular risk, which is higher in people with diabetes. The frequency may vary, but it’s typically done annually.
  • Kidney Function Tests: These include tests like serum creatinine and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) to monitor kidney health. People with diabetes are at risk of kidney problems, and these tests are usually done at least annually.
  • Liver Function Tests: Liver function tests, including ALT, AST, and bilirubin, help monitor the health of the liver, which can be affected in some individuals with diabetes. The frequency may vary based on individual health.
  • Thyroid Function Tests: Thyroid function should be monitored regularly as thyroid disorders are more common in people with diabetes.

For more information

Regular lab testing is necessary for effective diabetes management, but it doesn’t have to be a hassle. HNL Lab Medicine's Patient Service Centers (PSCs) offer a convenient and comfortable option for getting regular bloodwork done. Embracing routine blood tests and working closely with your healthcare team ensures that you are equipped to take charge of your well-being, enabling a fulfilling life with diabetes.

¹ American Diabetes Association. (2021, October). The burden of diabetes in Pennsylvania. https://diabetes.org/sites/default/files/2021-11/ADV_2021_State_Fact_sheets_Pennsylvania_rev.pdf   
² Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, October 20). Diabetes. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/manage-blood-sugar.html .
³ Pennsylvania Department of Health. (2022). Diabetes. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/Pages/Diabetes.aspx