Free diabetes screenings are becoming more common, but are they as reliable as going to your doctor’s office?
It’s something we’re seeing more and more of these days.
Sam’s Club is hosting free diabetes health screenings today for both members and the public. The screenings will take place at 612 Sam’s Club locations in the United States that have a pharmacy.
“As the prevalence of diabetes continues to rise so does the importance of screening to ensure people are aware of it and able to get the treatment they need,” said Tara Raddohl, director of corporate communications for Sam’s Club.
This is the fifth year that Sam’s Club is offering these free diabetes health screenings.
The tests at the Sept. 12 event will include an A1C test, which measures average blood sugar level, as well as a glucose exam, which assesses current blood sugar level.
Other tests will include blood pressure, risk ratio, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, total cholesterol, and body mass index.
These types of public screenings are on the rise and some experts are concerned they aren’t providing people with adequate information.
An article in Pharmacy Times published this year cited a 2012 study that found visits by people to retail clinics quadrupled between 2007 and 2009.
Walgreens Healthcare Clinic, Rite Aid RediClinic, and CVS MinuteClinic have held screenings for diabetes, the report said.
Health insurance providers, community centers, and hospitals also sponsor screenings.
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Could the same be true for diabetes?
Yes, according to a study in Diabetes Care.Researchers said that screening to identify type 2 diabetes followed by early treatment could result in substantial health advantages.
“Diabetes can be debilitating for patients and costly for healthcare,” said Dr. William Herman, lead author of the report and a professor at the University of Michigan Medical School, in a statement. “This research shows that the early identification of diabetes has major health benefits, and supports the introduction of measures such as screening to reduce the time between development of type 2 diabetes and its treatment.”
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Camilla Levister, a nurse practitioner and certified diabetes educator at the Mount Sinai Diabetes Center, said diabetes screenings at pharmacies have become more common.
Levister said the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force has updated its recommendations for those that should be screened for diabetes over the past years.
It recommends that those with risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including high blood pressure (blood pressure greater than 135/80 mm Hg), be screened for diabetes. This has caused a jump in free screenings, she said.
According to the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) National Diabetes Statistics Report from last year, 29 million Americans, or 9 percent of the population, had diabetes in 2012. Of them, 8 million were not diagnosed.
The ADA also states that there’s a difference between diagnostic testing and a screening.
When an individual exhibits symptoms or signs of the disease, diagnostic tests are performed, and such tests do not represent screening, according to a report in Diabetes Care.
The ADA states that the purpose of screening is to identify asymptomatic individuals who are likely to have diabetes. Separate diagnostic tests using standard criteria are required after positive screening tests to establish a definitive diagnosis.
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Dr. David Robbins, director of the Diabetes Institute at The University of Kansas Hospital, recommended that people see a doctor for a screening.
“Community screening outside a healthcare setting is not recommended because people with positive tests may not seek, or have access to, appropriate follow-up testing and care,” Robbins told Healthline. “Conversely, there may be failure to ensure appropriate repeat testing for individuals who test negative.”
He added that community screenings might fail to reach people most at risk.
In addition, testing should be done after a 10- to 12-hour fast or after a fixed dose of oral glucose.
“Few people attending a public event are fasting or can be given the standard dose of sugar,” Robbins said.
“I would strongly suggest that people at risk ask their healthcare provider to test for diabetes,” Robbins added. “Early detection and aggressive early treatment are the keys to preventing subsequent complications.”