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Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Who Should Be Tested?

Diabetes is very common. But until you have been tested, you can't know whether you have it. In the United States, 1 out of 10 people between ages 40 and 60 are estimated to have diabetes. Among people aged 60 and older, 1 out of 5 have diabetes. Studies suggest that 1 out of 3 people who have diabetes have never been diagnosed.

If you have symptoms that suggest a high blood-sugar level, get tested. You may have diabetes.

Symptoms include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Unusual thirst
  • Weight loss (even though you might be hungrier than usual and might be eating more)
  • Blurred vision

If you develop any health conditions commonly caused by diabetes, this is another good reason to get tested.

It is probably worth your while to get tested even without symptoms if you have higher-than-average risk of developing diabetes. The American Diabetes Association provides an interactive risk test for you.

The ADA suggests screening for diabetes in adults older than 45. You also should get a diabetes test if you have a body mass index of 25 or more and at least one of the following risks for diabetes:

  • No regular exercise
  • Sibling or parent who has type 2 diabetes
  • African-American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, or South Pacific Island racial heritage
  • If you are a woman, having had a baby larger than 9 pounds
  • Having had diabetes during pregnancy
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Certain cholesterol problems: "Good" cholesterol (HDL) less than 35 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) or triglyceride levels of 250 mg/dl or more
  • High blood pressure, with a systolic (top) pressure of at least 140 or a diastolic (bottom) pressure of at least 90
  • Vascular disease (heart attack, stroke or artery problems in your legs)
  • A previous above-normal blood-sugar measurement, even if it was not high enough to diagnose diabetes

If you get tested because you have one or more risks for diabetes, the ADA suggests repeating the test every three years. (You might consider more frequent testing if you have several risks.) Some people at high risk can prevent diabetes by using diet and exercise and, in some cases, medication.

Last updated July 19, 2010