New tool to help diagnose diabetes

May 27th, 2008 - 5:08 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, May 27 (IANS) There are millions of people harbouring diabetes without knowing it, says a study that identifies a new diagnostic tool for the disease. Some 30 percent of the diabetes cases are undiagnosed because of “serious deficiencies” in the current criteria of diagnosis, which contribute to avoidable deaths, the study found.

The study, by researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said the primary reason why many with diabetes are undiagnosed was because prescribed tests require fasting.

This meant that people who had eaten on the day of a doctor visit would not be diagnosed unless they had quite advanced diabetes.

As an alternative to the fasting, a panel of medical experts has suggested incorporating another criteria — a hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) count — for screening diabetes, said Christopher Saudek, co-author of the study.

Hemoglobin is the oxygen-carrying protein located in red blood cells. Its variant, HbA1c, reflects average blood glucose levels over previous months, and has been used for a long time to gauge these levels in diabetics.

But it has never been officially accepted as a way for doctors to screen or diagnose diabetes. HbA1c was rejected largely because it was considered to be inadequately standardised and insensitive.

Given more recent evidence, the panel believes it is time to revisit using HbA1c and include it as necessary criteria in screening and diagnosing diabetes.

HbA1c does not require fasting and it more accurately reflects longer-term glucose concentration in the blood.

Other tests can easily be affected by short-term lifestyle changes, such as a few days of dieting or exercise.

The findings of the study can be found in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

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