U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

NCBI Bookshelf. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

  • This publication is provided for historical reference only and the information may be out of date.

This publication is provided for historical reference only and the information may be out of date.

Cover of Screening for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

Screening for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

Systematic Evidence Reviews, No. 19

, MD, MPH, , MPA, , BA, , BSPH, , PhD, , MD, , DrPH, MSLS, and , BA.

Author Information and Affiliations

Structured Abstract


Type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM-2) is an important cause of morbidity and mortality for individuals and the US population. Many people have DM-2 but have not been diagnosed. Whether screening to detect and treat DM-2 would do more good than harm is not clear.


To examine the evidence of the benefits and harms of screening and earlier treatment in reducing the complications of this disease to assist the US Preventive Services Task Force.

Data Sources:

We identified English language articles on the following: yield of screening, the risk of complications, the effectiveness of treatments to reduce complications for those with clinically detected DM-2, the harms of screening and earlier treatment, the effectiveness of treatments aimed at those with impaired fasting glucose or impaired glucose tolerance (IFG/IGT), the effects of treatment on quality of life, and the costs and cost-effectiveness of screening. To identify these articles, we searched the MEDLINE database from 1966 through November 7, 2001; searched the Cochrane database of systematic reviews through 2001; examined reference lists of textbooks, monographs, and review articles; and asked experts in the field.

Study Selection:

To determine the yield of screening, we examined studies of the results of population-based screening. We included studies of population screening that compared one test against another, examined the ability of a test to detect pathologic evidence of diabetes, or examined the reliability of screening tests. To determine the risks of complications, we included longitudinal studies of recently diagnosed people with DM-2 of at least 1 year's duration. For the effects of treatment on numerous intermediate and four health outcomes, we examined randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of treatments for various diabetic complications. To determine the harms, costs, and cost-effectiveness of screening, we examined all study designs concerning these outcomes. We also examined all study designs of population-based groups for the effects of lifestyle interventions or medications in reducing the incidence of DM-2 among those with IFG/IGT.

Data Extraction:

We abstracted the following data from included articles that dealt most directly with our key questions: demographic details about study subjects, how study subjects were selected, inclusion and exclusion criteria, drop-out and loss-to-follow-up rates, study design and duration, how randomization was accomplished, interventions and co-interventions, measurement methods, and outcome results. We evaluated the internal validity, external validity, and coherence of results of each individual study and assessed all the evidence concerning each key question.

Data Synthesis:

No large RCT of screening has been performed. Thus, the evidence for the benefits of screening is indirect. A detectable preclinical period exists, but its length is uncertain. Screening tests with adequate accuracy, reliability, and acceptability are available. The health outcomes of blindness, chronic renal failure, and lower extremity amputation occur infrequently until 20 years or longer of diabetes duration. Trials of treatment after clinical diagnosis have found it difficult to demonstrate a statistically significant health benefit. How much these outcomes would be reduced by the additional few years of treatment produced by screening is uncertain. Visual impairment less severe than blindness and cardiovascular (CVD) events are more common complications in the decade after diabetes diagnosis. Tight control of blood pressure is effective in reducing these complications among those already clinically diagnosed with DM-2 and hypertension. Little information is available about harms of screening, although several harms are potentially serious problems. The costs of diagnosis, treatment, and dealing with the complications of DM-2 are high. One study examined the cost-effectiveness of screening for DM-2 but assumed that the only effective treatment was glycemic control.


The evidence for screening for DM-2 is indirect and mixed. The strongest case for screening comes from earlier detection and treatment of CVD risk factors, especially hypertension. An RCT of screening is needed to answer the many remaining questions.

Keywords: diabetes mellitus, impaired fasting glucose, impaired glucose tolerance, visual impairment, retinopathy, blindness, chronic renal failure, lower extremity amputation, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, dyslipidemia, glycemic control, laser photocoagulation

Prepared for: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.1 Contract No. 290-97-0011, Task Order No. 3, Technical Support of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Prepared by: RTI International Evidence-Based Practice Center, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

This report may be used, in whole or in part, as the basis for development of clinical practice guidelines and other quality enhancement tools, or a basis for reimbursement and coverage policies. AHRQ or U.S. Department of Health and Human Services endorsement of such derivative products may not be stated or implied.

AHRQ is the lead Federal agency charged with supporting research designed to improve the quality of health care, reduce its cost, address patient safety and medical errors, and broaden access to essential services. AHRQ sponsors and conducts research that provides evidence-based information on health care outcomes; quality; and cost, use, and access. The information helps health care decisionmakers -- patients and clinicians, health system leaders, and policymakers -- make more informed decisions and improve the quality of health care services.

The authors of this report are responsible for its content. Statements in the report should not be construed as endorsement by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of a particular drug, device, test, treatment, or other clinical service.


6010 Executive Boulevard, Suite 300 Rockville, Maryland 20852. www‚Äč.ahrq.gov

Bookshelf ID: NBK42917PMID: 20722114


  • PubReader
  • Print View
  • Cite this Page

Similar articles in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...