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Testing for diabetes – should you perform a home test or see a doctor?

All HOMED-IQ content is reviewed by medical specialists

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a home test for diabetes and a test from a doctor? In this article we would like to explain the differences between the different types of tests available in order to help you decide which test is right for you.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is an umbrella term for various diseases of the human metabolism in which the human body no longer produces insulin or can no longer produce enough insulin. Diabetes can be genetic or the result of an unhealthy diet. Interested in learning more about has already about type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes?. Feel free to check out Homed-IQ’s other articles to learn more about diabetes, HbA1c, and what the symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are.

What is a home diabetes test?

A home diabetes test is a self-test that involves taking either a urine sample or a small amount of blood. If you conduct a rapid home diabetes test you will have your test result in approximately 10 – 30 minutes. However, if you choose a home with laboratory evaluation, you must then send your sample to a laboratory for analysis.

Both urine and blood samples are easy to collect and can provide reliable results. With both types of tests, however, it is essential that you take the sample on an empty stomach, preferably in the morning just after getting up. In addition, you must use the first urine of the day for the urine sample.

While rapid diabetes tests are inexpensive and provide a quick test result, they are known for having sub-par reliability. On the other hand, a self-test with laboratory evaluation, such as Homed-IQ’s blood sugar test, delivers both a quick test result and a high degree of reliability. We therefore always recommend a home test with laboratory evaluation if you have to decide between the two types of tests.

What is a diabetes test from the pharmacy?

In the pharmacy you can get both rapid tests and home tests with laboratory evaluation for diabetes. The procedure for both tests is the same as for the tests that you can purchase online. Here, too, a quick test is not particularly recommended if you also have the option of opting for a test that includes laboratory evaluation. The difference between the tests from the Internet and those from the pharmacy is usually the price. However, they can also differ in quality and reliability. A pharmacy has high quality standards and will probably only offer certified self-tests for sale, whereas some self-tests from the Internet are not certified or work with licensed laboratories.

Homed-IQ self-tests meet the highest quality requirements and are of the same quality level as self-tests from the pharmacy.

What is a diabetes test from the doctor?

While you measure either the sugar level in your urine or the blood sugar level in your blood with a home test, a diabetes test at the GP is quite extensive.

A doctor uses various measurements to diagnose diabetes:

  • Fasting blood sugar
  • Random blood sugar
  • HbA1c value (long-term blood sugar)
  • oGTT (Oral Glucose Tolerance Test)

As a rule, GPs usually pick one type of blood test for an initial examination. If blood sugar levels appear to be normal but an individual is experiencing symptoms of diabetes, the doctor may then opt for the oGTT test.

In addition to a blood test, a urine test at the doctor’s is also possible. However, a urine test is by no means the first choice to test yourself/someone for diabetes. The reason for this is that excess sugar is only released at a blood value of 180mg/dl, and a value of 180mg/dl is already considered to be too high. Therefore, urine tests are unsuitable for the diagnosis of early-stage diabetes, also called pre-diabetes.

What is the oral glucose tolerance test and what does it measure?

The oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) is a test that measures how quickly a patient’s body can process glucose that is taken orally. As already mentioned, this test is used when the blood sugar values from a normal diabetes test are in the normal range, but the patient still complains of symptoms typical of diabetes. In a glucose tolerance test, blood is first drawn from the patient to determine the baseline blood sugar level. The patient is then given 50-75g of glucose in order to compare the blood sugar values with the initial values two to four hours later. If blood glucose levels are still above 200 mg/dl after at least two hours, the patient is diagnosed with diabetes.

How much does a diabetes test at the family doctor cost?

A diabetes test at the GP’s office costs around 20 euros, but only includes the test costs. The laboratory evaluation is not included in this price. These costs have to be added up and can make performing a diabetes test at the family doctor expensive quickly.

In addition to money, a test at the family doctor costs something else – time. A diabetes test at the family doctor is not something you can do in a few minutes. You must make an appointment, wait in the waiting room on the day of the appointment, and wait for the result after the blood draw. Not every professional has time for this. High-quality home tests with laboratory evaluation can help here, as they eliminate the need to visit the doctor for the test.

Which diabetes test is right for me?

Which test is right for you depends entirely on the situation. Does diabetes run in your family and do you just want to check your blood levels out of curiosity since you don’t have any other symptoms? In this case, a rapid test could be sufficient. On the other hand, do you suffer from symptoms of diabetes and want to more accurately assess your risk? A home test with laboratory evaluation is then recommended to ensure that the result is precise. Home tests do not only save you money, but above all they save you time!

Do your test results deviate from the target values for blood sugar levels? Be sure to consult your family doctor for further care. As with any other home test, home health tests are meant to assess your own health, but are not to be used for self-diagnosis and do not replace a visit to the doctor.

References

Federal Ministry of Health. (2021, June 28). Diabetes mellitus type 1 and type 2 | BMG. Diabetes mellitus type 1 and type 2. Retrieved on May 10, 2022, from https://www.bundesgesundheitsminister.de/themen/praevention/gesundheitsinstrumente/diabetes.html

Fischer, C. (2020, April 13). Diabetes test: Self-test or go to the doctor? Diabetes Self Help. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from https://diabetes- selbsthilfe.com/diabetes-test/

Rudorf, J. (2020, March 12). IGeL: Diabetes screening with HbA1c test. Pharmacy magazine. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from https://www.apotheken-umschau.de/icken-symptome/diabetes/blutzucker/igel-diabetes-screening-mit-hba1c-test-723095.html

Schwarz, J. & Franz, M. (2021, July 15). diabetes test. NetDoctor. Retrieved on May 10, 2022 from https://www.netdoktor.de/opathien/diabetes-mellitus/diabetes-test/

About the Author

Lauren Dobischok

Lauren is a health scientist and science communicator living in the Netherlands. She has completed a Research Master in Health Sciences at Erasmus University Rotterdam’s Netherlands Institute for Health Sciences (NIHES) with a specialization in epidemiology, and a B.Sc. in Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University. With a background in public health, her goal is to create accurate scientific content that is easy to understand and enables people to make informed decisions. Within Homed-IQ, Lauren serves as Product Developer and Content Lead, working closely with medical doctors and medical device scientists on Homed-IQ’s new products and written communications.