Managing diabetes means visiting different doctors throughout the year and taking various lab tests. Request a copy of your lab tests during your next exam to read over and discuss the results with your doctor. Make a file to keep so you can compare each lab report in the future. Learning how to read a lab report helps you take control of your health.

Keeping Track of Your Health

Laboratory tests are done to keep track of your health and refine your diabetes self-management plan. These tests are used to determine your blood sugar control, cardiovascular well-being and kidney function. No matter what type of lab test you are reading, all the reports have some standard features. These include basic information such as your name, identification number, the name and address of the lab and the authorized people who ordered the tests. The lab test will indicate the specimen type, such as blood or urine, along with all the tests done on that specimen. The results may be expressed as positive, negative or in numbers. Out-of-range or abnormal results appear in bold print or are highlighted. Critical results will show a date of notification to your doctor. Reference ranges are provided to show how your results compare with the normal results of those who are tested. You will also see a unit of measurement for each test result. Use your lab report results to ask your doctor about any questions or concerns you have.

Diagnosing Diabetes

People with diabetes are either unable to produce or respond to insulin properly. This leads to elevated blood sugar levels. Two specific lab tests are used to diagnose diabetes. They include the fasting plasma glucose test and the oral glucose tolerance test. A third blood test called the HBA1c or A1C is used to monitor your 3-month average after your diabetes diagnosis. Keep track of your A1C levels to track your diabetes control.

Types and Values of Lab Report Tests for Diagnosis and Monitoring

People taking the fasting plasma glucose test fast, except for water, for at least eight hours prior to taking the test. Diabetes is defined as a blood sugar level of 126 mg/dl or more at least two times. After an initial elevation the blood test is repeated. A level from 100 to 125 mg/dl is referred to as pre-diabetes and normal is defined as 60 to 99 mg/dl. For the oral glucose tolerance test the person is given a high glucose drink and is tested to determine the response. The blood sugar is drawn prior to drinking the sweet solution. If the blood sugar is under 140mg/dl after two hours then it is considered normal. If the blood sugar is 141-199mg/dl then it is considered pre-diabetes. If the level is 200 mg/dl or more after two hours it is an indication of diabetes. The HbA1c test is used to determine long-term blood sugar control in people diagnosed with diabetes. It shows an estimate of the blood glucose levels of the patient over a period of up to three months. These results can help doctors and patients develop a more effective diabetes management plan. A diabetes-related auto-antibody test might be ordered by your doctor to verify if you have diabetes type 1 or type 2. Diabetes type 1 is diagnosed in 5-10 % of the population and almost 90% are considered type 2. These are some of the common lab tests ordered for people with diabetes. Other tests may be recommended to detect diabetes-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease. That includes the total cholesterol which should be under 200mg/dl, the LDL(unhealthy cholesterol) which should be under 70mg/dl for those with diabetes and the HDL(healthy cholesterol) which should be at least 45-50 mg/dl for those with diabetes. The triglyceride value should be under 150mg/dl. The doctor may recommend a CRP blood test or a homocysteine level which indicates systemic inflammation. Talk to your physician to see which blood tests are right for you.

Testing at Home

Lab tests are done periodically but diabetes is a condition that needs to be monitored according to your physician’s recommendations when at home. Home glucose testing should be done by the patient to monitor diabetes values regularly. Abnormalities should be reported to the doctor as needed. If blood sugar numbers are under 70 mg/dl or over 200mg/dl for 2 consecutive days, report values to your doctor. The doctor may make changes to lifestyle habits or medications as a result of these fluctuations.

Testing Your Blood Glucose Levels

Portable blood glucose monitors are used to determine the effects of a person’s actions on their blood glucose levels to detect certain patterns. The devices take a small blood sample, usually from a fingertip, which is applied to a test strip. The strip is put into a blood glucose meter to get a result in seconds. A portable blood glucose meter is within 20 percent accurate as compared to lab results. This means your blood meter reading might be up to 20 points higher or lower than your lab test results. Talk to your doctor about where your blood glucose levels should be. Testing before meals will result in different readings as compared to testing 2 hours after a meal.

Testing for Ketones

When your blood sugar is extremely high due to lack of insulin your body stops using glucose for energy and starts to breakdown fats. This produces ketones. In high concentrations, ketones can disrupt the acid balance in your body. This can lead to a medical emergency called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Symptoms include nausea, disorientation, frequent urination, thirst, dehydration, rapid breathing and breath with a fruity scent. Certain home blood monitors can be used to test for ketones. Urine ketone testing kits can also be used at home. DKA is much more common in type 1 diabetes so be aware of the symptoms. If you suspect symptoms of DKA, contact your doctor or go to hospital immediately.

The A1C Test

People can now use an A1C test kit in the comfort of their home to monitor the long-term effects of diabetes for a period of two to three months. A normal A1C level is 4.5-5.6%. A pre-diabetes A1C is considered 5.7 -6.4%.Diabetes is diagnosed with an A1C of 6.5% or higher. The higher the results the higher your blood sugar levels have been. The test does not require fasting and blood can be drawn any time of the day. You will still need to be followed by your physician but this can offer you some solid information between visits.

Ways to lower Lab Test Results

It helps to minimize your intake of fatty, salty, sugary and processed foods and exercise for about a half hour each day to help get your numbers to safer values. Because diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure in the US, a yearly test for albumin in the urine is usually done. Albumin leaks into the urine when the kidneys are losing function. Blood creatinine might also be measured to detect kidney failure. As this number increases it shows a problem with kidney function. This test measures the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). The normal range is above 60 ml/min/1.73 m2. As the numbers get lower, the risk of kidney failure increases.

Many laboratory tests can be done today to monitor diabetes and related health conditions. Taking these tests helps your doctor determine the best treatments to keep you healthier and happier. Learning how to read your own lab test results gives you greater control over your well-being and the quality of your life in the years to come.