- Diabetes tests are calibrated to men’s blood sugar readings, research finds
- Nearly 35,000 women may have been wrongly told they do not have diabetes
- Changing blood sugar limit could increase female diagnosis by 17% per year
Thousands of women may be missing out on a type 2 diabetes diagnosis after a study found blood tests are targeting men.
Scientists looked at the blood sugar readings of more than a million people in England and Wales who were being tested for diabetes.
They found that women under 50 had significantly lower blood sugar readings, on average, compared to men.
This suggests that women with diabetes would have a lower blood reading than men with the disease. Thus, nearly 35,000 women under age 50 would test negative for diabetes when they, in fact, have the disease, the researchers estimated.
Changing the blood sugar test cutoff could increase the rate of women diagnosed with type 2 diabetes by 17 percent a year. Dr Adrian Heald, co-author of the study, said: “This research has observed an intriguing phenomenon, but more research is needed.”
Researchers estimate that nearly 35,000 women under age 50 may have been mistakenly told they did not have diabetes.
‘Quickly diagnosing women with type 2 diabetes can help them take exercise and diet measures, or take medications such as metformin, to keep their blood sugar at a healthy level. This is important to prevent damage to blood vessels caused by diabetes, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes in the long term.’
A commonly used test to see if someone has diabetes is the HbA1c blood sugar test. This checks the level of glucose attached to blood molecules called hemoglobin.
But because younger women tend to have periods every month, they lose and replenish hemoglobin faster than men, so they can accumulate less glucose. The research, published in the journal Diabetes Therapy, suggests this may explain their lower blood sugar readings, which could lead to a misdiagnosis of diabetes.
Women can be diagnosed with diabetes up to ten years late. That means missing out on years of health advice and medications, and a higher risk of dying from diabetes complications, such as heart disease.
Dr Lucy Chambers, from Diabetes UK, said: “Women tend to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes later in life than men. This could be because some of the clinical criteria for a diagnosis do not take into account the differences between sexes.’