Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.8 Accessed March 12, 2017.

Diabetes is a chronic, progressive disease that too often evades early diagnosis. Its hallmark clinical manifestation, hyperglycemia, is strongly associated with increased risk for myocardial infarction, stroke, microvascular complications, and mortality.1–3

The earliest symptoms of hyperglycemia may include polyuria, polydipsia, weight loss (occasionally with polyphagia), and blurred vision.4 Some patients with chronic hyperglycemia may experience impaired growth and susceptibility to certain infections.4 When diabetes is uncontrolled, acute hyperglycemia with ketoacidosis or nonketotic hyperosmolar syndrome may occur, which can be life-threatening.4

In many cases, diabetes is asymptomatic until complications manifest themselves. It is believed that as many as 25% of people with type 2 diabetes are undiagnosed.5,6 An estimated 84.1 million individuals ≥18 years old (or 33.9% of the U.S. adult population) have prediabetes, the vast majority of whom are unaware of their condition.7,8

Early intervention: identifying patients at risk

Healthcare providers have an opportunity to identify people at risk for diabetes by asking patients about symptoms and assessing for common risk factors during office visits. These common risk factors include obesity and elevated BMI, sedentary lifestyle, family history of the disease, high blood pressure, and a history of gestational diabetes. Although non-white minorities and people above the age of 45 years may be at increased risk, it should be noted that diabetes affects people of all ages, races, and ethnicities, and it is increasingly being seen in young adults, teenagers, and even children.10,11

Interventions that can prevent or delay the worsening of diabetes and the onset of complications can only be initiated in patients who have been diagnosed. National guidelines for diabetes screening have been released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Diabetes Association, and the Preventive Services Task Force. In addition, a number of risk assessment tools have been developed to help identify patients who are in need of testing.5,12–15 The American Diabetes Association has also developed a risk test that is designed to help patients and providers quickly and easily assess diabetes risk and determine the need for diagnostic testing.5


Source: American Diabetes Association.5

Diagnostic tests

A number of tests are available to diagnose diabetes and to detect prediabetes. Most often, the disease is diagnosed based on plasma glucose criteria—specifically, fasting plasma glucose (FPG) or the 2-hour plasma glucose (2-hr PG) value after a 75-g oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) or A1C criteria.5 Importantly, diabetes may be identified anywhere along the spectrum of clinical scenarios, including in low-risk individuals who happen to have glucose testing, in individuals whose testing is triggered by risk assessment, and in those who are symptomatic.5

The American Diabetes Association recommends that screening for prediabetes with an informal assessment of risk factors be considered in all adults. Moreover, testing for prediabetes should be considered in adults of any age who are overweight or obese (BMI ≥25 kg/m2 or ≥23 kg/m2 in Asian Americans) and have ≥1 risk factor for diabetes (such as family history, history of gestational diabetes, and/or advanced age). Testing for diabetes should be done in all individuals over the age of 45 years and should be repeated a minimum of every 3 years when results are normal.5


Source: American Diabetes Association.5

Which test to use in assessing specific patients for diabetes is left to the discretion of the clinician. Factors to take into account include the availability and practicality of testing. What is most important is that risk assessment and testing be performed regularly in clinical practice in order to curb the rising epidemic of the disease and initiate treatment in patients prior to the onset of advanced disease and potentially debilitating complications.5

In patients who are diagnosed with diabetes, careful, ongoing monitoring is needed to assess glycemic control and screen for associated comorbidities.


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  4. American Diabetes Association. Diagnosis and classification of diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Care. 2010;33(suppl 1):S62-S69.
  5. American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes- 2018. Diabetes Care. 2018, (Suppl1)S13-S27.
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  8. American Diabetes Association. Statistics about diabetes. www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/. Accessed March 12, 2017.
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infographic: a snapshot of diabetes in America. www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/cdc-infographic.html. Accessed March 12, 2017.
  10. Centers for Disease control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/data/statistics/statistics-report.html. Accessed 3. 2018.
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  13. US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for type 2 diabetes mellitus in adults: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2008; 148:846-854.
  14. Bang H, Edwards AM, Bomback AS, et al. Development and validation of a patient self- assessment score for diabetes risk. Ann Intern Med. 2009;151;775-783.
  15. Heikes KE, Eddy DM, Arondekar B, Schlessinger L. Diabetes Risk Calculator: a simple tool for detecting undiagnosed diabetes and pre-diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2008;31:1040-1045.