Clinical Laboratories Empower Patients to Take Charge of Diabetes
November is American Diabetes Month, a chance to bring awareness to the fundamental role of clinical laboratories in diagnosing and managing this chronic, progressive health condition. Diabetes affects more than 37 million Americans, yet more than 20% people who have it are unaware.
One of the main tests used in both diagnosis and treatment of diabetes is the A1C, also known as the hemoglobin A1C or HbA1c. It is an important tool that measures average blood sugar levels over the prior three months, and is relied upon to manage diabetes and detect chronic high-glucose levels that correlate with a risk of long-term complications.
Other tests include:
- Blood tests such as a fasting blood test, which measures the level of glucose after an overnight fast; glucose tolerance test, which measures levels before and after drinking a liquid that contains glucose, and random blood sugar tests, which show blood glucose levels at the time of testing.
- Genetic testing, done by specialized clinical laboratories to identify genetic risk factors for diabetes and to help develop appropriate treatments and pregnancy planning in families affected by rare forms of diabetes associated with gene mutations.
- Urine testing, used to check levels of blood sugar and ketones, is another tool in diabetes management. Ketones are chemicals produced in the liver that can build to dangerous levels when there is not enough insulin to allow blood sugar into cells for energy. This can cause diabetic ketoacidosis, which can be life-threatening.
- C-peptide tests to assess the level of this hormone, which is produced in the pancreas and helps glucose get into cells to produce energy. Measuring C-peptide in a sample of blood or urine is a way to measure how much insulin is being produced in the body.
Annual recommended blood testing can detect prediabetes, a treatable condition in which glucose levels are elevated but have not yet progressed to diabetes. As with other diseases, early detection allows prompt treatment that can delay or prevent serious complications associated with later stages of the disease. Clinical laboratory tests inform patients and their caregivers when glucose levels are too high or too low, guiding treatment toward better control of the disease.
There was a time when diabetes inevitably led to a life of illness. But today, thanks to advances in clinical testing that allows for earlier detection and tighter control of blood glucose levels, people with diabetes can reduce their risk of life-limiting complications and live longer, healthier lives.
 American Diabetes Association, https://diabetes.org/about-diabetes/statistics/about-diabetes#:~:text=Prevalence%3A%20In%202019%2C%2037.3%20million,of%20the%20population%2C%20had%20diabetes.&text=Diagnosed%20and%20undiagnosed%3A%20Of%20the,and%208.5%20million%20were%20undiagnosed.
 The United States National Library of Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4933534/#:~:text=HbA1c%20is%20an%20important%20indicator,of%20long%2Dterm%20diabetes%20complications.
 Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/getting-tested.html.
 National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes/monogenic-neonatal-mellitus-mody#:~:text=Some%20rare%20forms%20of%20diabetes,from%20one%20or%20both%20parents.
 Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/diabetic-ketoacidosis.html#:~:text=People%20with%20type%202%20diabetes,that%20produces%20acids%20called%20ketones.