University of Illinois Extension

Screening Youth for Diabetes

There is no screening test for type 1 diabetes, and it can’t be prevented. The odds of inheriting the disease are only 10% if a first degree relative has diabetes, and even in identical twins, one twin only has a 33% chance of having type 1 diabetes if the other twin has it.

Screening is much more effective for identifying youth who are at risk for type 2 diabetes. However, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force does not recommend universal screening. Youth may be tested if they meet certain risk criteria. Youth may be tested if:

  • They are overweight (they have a body mass index at the 85th percentile or above for age, sex, and weight for height)*

and have any two of the following risk factors:

  • Family history in 1st or 2nd degree relatives
  • Belonging to a higher risk ethnicity group (Native American, African American, Hispanic/Latino, Pacific Islander, Asian American, Alaska Native)
  • The child has signs of insulin resistance or conditions associated with insulin resistance
  • The mother has had a history of diabetes or gestational diabetes

If a child is at risk for type 2 diabetes, testing may begin at 10 years of age or at the onset of puberty (if puberty occurs earlier than age 10). The child should be re-tested every 3 years.

*Note: Body mass index percentiles in children are different for girls than for boys. It is also important not to use the height-for-weight BMI calculated for adults when assessing youth because they are still growing. That factor is taken into account in the CDC growth charts issued by the United States government. They can be found at www.cdc.gov.