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A home diabetes test is particularly relevant to people in groups which are at an elevated risk of developing the disease. These involve being above a certain age and having one or more risk factors. The age is 40 or above for white people, and 25 or above for ethnic minorities. The risk factors include being overweight, having high blood pressure, having suffered a stroke or heart attack, having severe mental health problems, or having a parent or sibling who has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
You should also consider a home diabetes test if you suffer particular symptoms. These include regular infections, wounds which take a long time to heal, urinating noticeably often, always feeling tired or thirsty, and suffering from numbness in your hands or feet. Whatever the result of your diabetes test, you should still seek medical advice if any of these symptoms persist.
Remember that a home diabetes test is not your only option. Some pharmacies and health clinics may offer free tests to people in particular at risk groups. You may also be offered a test by your doctor after a check-up. If a home diabetes test indicates you may have diabetes, you should still get a test from your doctor to make sure.
Because home diabetes tests are relatively cheap, you should be able to afford to test purely as a precaution rather than wait until you have any symptoms. One test manufacturer recommends people in at-risk groups test annually. It also says everyone else aged 45 or above should test every three years.
There are two main types of home diabetes test. Both involve checking glucose levels, since diabetes means your body does not produce insulin to reduce these levels. It's important to remember that these tests do not diagnose diabetes; only a doctor can do that. Instead the tests can detect a sign of diabetes, namely the glucose levels. This sign can be discovered before your diabetes develops enough to cause any symptoms.
The first type of test involves taking a small blood sample from a fingertip onto a special pad, then checking the coloring of the pad which will change depending on your glucose levels. The second type of test involves checking a urine sample. Unlike a pregnancy test, you take the sample into a small cup, then dip a test strip into it.
The blood test is the best option for most people. It is the recommended option of the American Diabetes Association and is arguably a better indicator since somebody with high glucose levels in their blood will not necessarily have glucose in their urine. The urine test is also unsuitable for women who are menstruating. One disadvantage of the blood test is that you must not eat for at least 12 hours before taking it, whereas the urine test can be done two hours after eating.
I would not self-diagnose myself with diabetes based on any at-home diabetes test. I did have some of the symptoms of diabetes a few years ago, so I bought a store brand blood glucose meter and tested my blood two hours after eating lunch. The reading was something like 172, which my wife said was pretty high. I should have ramped back down to 100-120 if my pancreas was in normal shape.
I tried it again one morning before breakfast, and it was 96. I didn't have any food in my stomach, so that made a big difference. I went to my doctor with these numbers and he said I was probably pre-diabetic, not full-blown diabetic. I could still get my blood sugar under control with diet and exercise. I say people should buy a blood glucose meter with affordable strips to get an idea of what their levels are, but leave the official diabetes diagnosis to professionals.
I'd say the first at home diabetes test I'd take would measure my a1c. The a1c test results show an average blood glucose level for approximately the last three months. The a1c test kit includes a lancet for the fingertip stick, a special paper pad that absorbs the blood and a self-sealing envelope for sending it to an outside lab. A more expensive at-home a1c test kit will process the sample and give the user much faster results.
Personally, I believe the less expensive a1c test kit is good enough for most people. My biggest problem was producing enough blood to saturate both circles used for lab analysis. The results were sent back to me by email in about 5 days. If someone really desires more privacy, then the more expensive a1c test kit will provide results without having to send blood samples through the mail.
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