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Diabetes screening tests

3-minute read

Diabetes is a group of conditions in which a person’s body can’t maintain healthy levels of sugar (glucose) in their blood. High blood sugar levels can cause health problems over time.

Someone can have diabetes without experiencing any symptoms. Your doctor may ask you to get tested if you are at risk of diabetes.

Am I at risk of diabetes?

You can ask your doctor about your risk for diabetes. You can also estimate your risk of getting type 2 diabetes by using the Australian Type 2 Diabetes Risk Assessment Tool (AUSDRISK). This is a simple way for you to check your risk.

You may be at increased risk of type 2 diabetes if you:

  • are over 40
  • have a family member with type 2 diabetes
  • are from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background
  • were born in Asia
  • are not physically active

Who should have a diabetes test?

You should have a diabetes test if you are at a high risk of type 2 diabetes. An AUSDRISK score of 12 or more is considered high risk.

You may also be at high risk of diabetes if you:

  • have had a heart attack or stroke before
  • have had gestational diabetes (a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy)
  • have polycystic ovary syndrome
  • take medications to treat psychosis

You should have a diabetes test every year if you have pre-diabetes.

What happens during a diabetes test?

Diabetes is usually tested by using a blood glucose test. Normally, a blood sample is taken from your vein and sent to a pathology lab for analysis.

There are different types of blood test. You may be asked to fast overnight beforehand (fasting blood glucose test) or you may not need to prepare. You may be asked to take an oral glucose tolerance test. For this test, you are asked to fast, have a blood sample taken, then drink a sugary drink provided for you and have another blood sample taken 2 hours later.

What does a diabetes test cost?

If you have a Medicare card and your doctor orders the diabetes test for you, the test is usually bulk billed. That means there are no out-of-pocket costs to you. However, you can call the pathology lab to ask about costs.

How can I get tested?

Speak to your doctor about having your risk of diabetes assessed. If your doctor thinks you should be tested, they will usually fill in a pathology request form, which you take to a pathology collection centre to have the blood test.

What follow-up is involved?

You will usually need to see your doctor to get your test results. Ask your doctor when you should return for your next diabetes test. This will depend on your level of risk.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2018

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