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Diabetes screening tests

5-minute read

Key facts

  • You can have diabetes even without experiencing any symptoms.
  • 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.
  • Your doctor may ask you to get tested if you are at higher than average risk of having diabetes.
  • Risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include being older than 55 years, living with overweight or obesity, having high blood pressure or having a family history of type 2 diabetes.

What is a diabetes test?

Diabetes can be diagnosed by a blood test that checks your blood glucose (sugar) levels. If you are at a high risk of diabetes, or you are having symptoms, your doctor may refer you for a diabetes test.

Who should have a diabetes test?

Because you can have diabetes even without experiencing any symptoms, you should have a diabetes test regularly if you are at a high risk of type 2 diabetes. An Australian Type 2 Diabetes Risk Assessment Tool (AUSDRISK) score of 12 or more is considered high risk.

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

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

Am I at risk of diabetes?

You can ask your doctor about your risk for diabetes. There are several different types of diabetes.

The Australian Type 2 Diabetes Risk Assessment Tool (AUSDRISK) can help you understand your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. 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 55 years of age
  • are over 45 years and have high blood pressure and/or are living with overweight or obesity
  • have a family member with type 2 diabetes
  • are from an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background
  • were born in Asia
  • are not physically active

ARE YOU AT RISK? — Are you at risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease? Use the Risk Checker to find out.

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 tests used in different situations. You may be asked to fast overnight beforehand (fasting blood glucose test) or you may not need to prepare.

In some cases, your doctor may recommend an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). For this test, you will need to fast overnight. In the morning, you will have a blood sample taken, then drink a sugary drink provided for you and have additional blood samples taken 1 and 2 hours later.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

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 or additional costs to you.

It’s always a good idea to ask the pathology lab about any out-of-pocket or additional costs when you book your appointment.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

How can I get tested?

If you are concerned about your diabetes risk, speak to your doctor, who can refer you for a 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.

Resources and support

Diabetes Australia has a handy tool to help you calculate your risk of developing type 2 diabetes within the next five years.

To check if you’re in the healthy weight range, visit the healthdirect page on body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.

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

Last reviewed: November 2022

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