hand holding vile of blood over red background

Can Diabetes be Detected in a Single Blood Test?

In a study performed by Johns Hopkins epidemiologist Elizabeth Selvin, researchers discovered a diabetes blood test that could deliver more accurate results compared to today’s guidelines. The test simplifies the process of diagnosing diabetes and distills it down to a single test. The benefits of this for patients and doctors alike could be profound if the practice is adopted into common guidelines.

The study

The study began in 1980 and recorded valuable healthcare data including data about heart disease and diabetes. It looked at 13,000 people and followed them for decades as it assessed the group’s health issues. What it found was that a single test could diagnose diabetes in these participants if they had any diabetes risk factors like obesity or a family history.


Current tests

Current diabetes blood test protocol dictates a common blood test to check for increased blood sugar levels. However, the patient must fast beforehand. Normal fasting blood sugar levels are 70-99 mg/dl; blood sugar levels that indicated diabetes are 80-130 mg/dl.

The definitive test that can be ordered simultaneously is an HbA1c test. This test measures your average blood sugar levels from the previous 2-3 months. Without diabetes, HbA1c levels should be less than 5.7 percent; anything over 6.5 percent is considered diabetes.

Benefits of the new test

If diabetes is diagnosed through a single blood test, that could mean improved outcome for patients because there is less waiting time and treatment can begin right away. Currently, a follow-up appointment for a diabetes blood test could mean ordering further testing. If this test becomes common practice, follow-up appointments could lead to coming up with a game plan to treat and manage the disease, meaning healthier patients with fewer healthcare costs.

Current guidelines are set to be revised in 2019, and Selvin is hopeful that the single diabetes blood test will become common practice during this time.