What Is the Fasting Plasma Glucose Test?

What to expect when undergoing this test

The fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test, also known as the fasting blood glucose test (FBG) or fasting blood sugar test, measures the levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. It is a relatively simple, accurate, and inexpensive test that can screen for diabetes and problems with insulin functioning.

fasting plasma glucose test
Alex Dos Diaz / Verywell 

Purpose of Test

The FPG test is recommended as a screening test for people 35 or older to be repeated every three years. It may also be used for people who have symptoms of diabetes or multiple risk factors for diabetes.

Fasting for several hours triggers a hormone called glucagon, which is produced by the pancreas and causes the liver to release glucose (blood sugar) into the bloodstream.

  • If you don’t have diabetes, your body reacts by producing insulin, which prevents hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).
  • If your body cannot generate enough insulin or cannot appropriately respond to insulin, fasting blood sugar levels will stay high.
Lack of insulin or insulin resistance causes higher than normal levels of glucose in the blood.

In the diagnosis of diabetes, the FPG test may be performed alone or along with one of these other tests:

  • Random glucose tolerance test
  • Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), which measures blood glucose levels after the ingestion of a highly-sugared beverage following a period of fasting
  • Hemoglobin A1C, a measurement of average blood glucose levels over the course of two or three months

If your healthcare provider is recommending the FPG test because you've been having symptoms of diabetes, you can expect it will need to be repeated on a different day to confirm the results. Your healthcare provider may recommend the OGTT or the hemoglobin A1C test instead of or in addition to a second FPG test.

The FPG test is regarded as accurate and more sensitive than the A1C, though it is not quite as sensitive as the gold standard of glucose tests, the OGTT.

A key difference between the FPG test and the OGTT is the OGTT cannot be used to monitor or measure the effectiveness of a diabetes management program in those who have already been diagnosed with the disease.

Risks and Contraindications

As a standard blood draw performed in a lab, the FPG test is considered safe.

A handful of potential risks are associated with any blood work:

  • Multiple venipuncture wounds if the technician has trouble locating a vein
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
  • Hematoma (bruising or the accumulation of blood under the skin)
  • Infection

Before the Test

You should be able to drink water at any time before your test, and you will be instructed to avoid food or other drinks for about eight hours before your test. Your healthcare provider will advise you about any medication adjustments you might need to make before your test. If you have any questions about the test, ask your healthcare provider at this time.


The FPG test requires that you be in a fasted state—having not eaten anything for at least eight hours—so the test is usually scheduled for earlier in the morning. Once the lab technician is prepped to draw your blood, the test takes about five minutes.


The test will usually take place in a lab, hospital, or your healthcare provider's office.

What to Wear

Short sleeves are helpful for a blood draw in your arm, but not absolutely necessary. Dress comfortably and make sure you can push up your shirt sleeve or remove a layer of clothing.

Food and Drink

This is a fasted test, which means no food or drink for eight to 12 hours before testing. The ideal way to prep for this is to fast overnight. Follow your healthcare provider's directions.

Cost and Health Insurance

While the price may vary depending on where the test is performed, the FPG test is not expensive. Most health insurance policies cover the cost of FPG for routine examinations, monitoring, or for the purpose of diagnosing diabetes. You may be responsible for a co-pay or co-insurance fee. Call your insurance company to determine if you will have any out-of-pocket expenses for the test.

What to Bring

Bring your insurance card, identification, and a copy of the lab request/referral form. You might also want to bring a book or magazine in case you get stuck in the waiting room.

Some people feel woozy from having blood drawn after a long fast, due to a drop in blood sugar. To avoid this, bring along a snack to eat right after your test is complete.

Other Considerations

A quick web search will bring up numerous FPG testing kits you can order at home. While these may be helpful for monitoring diabetes after it's been diagnosed, they are not recommended for diagnosing or screening for diabetes.

During the Test

Your blood sample will be taken by a lab technician, nurse, or phlebotomist (a person trained in venipuncture).


Once you arrive, check-in at the front desk. You may need to fill out insurance billing forms or consent forms.

If you're nervous about having blood work done or have a history of feeling faint after medical procedures, make sure you tell someone so that the lab tech or nurse can take special precautions.

Throughout the Test

The technician or person administering the test will collect either:

  • A small vial of blood from a vein in your arm if you're having the test for screening or diagnosis
  • A drop from a finger prick if you're having the test for monitoring your diabetes

Your blood sample will be sent to a lab for analysis, and sometimes a finger prick test can provide immediate results.

Try not to cross your legs or tense your body, because stress can raise your glucose levels or make extracting blood more difficult.

Venous Blood Sample

The technician will ask you which arm you prefer to use for the test—most people choose their non-dominant arm.

  • You'll be seated, with your chosen arm resting on a flat surface. If necessary, roll up your sleeve above your elbow.
  • The technician will place a rubber band as a tourniquet just below your bicep in order to find a vein in the crook of your arm.
  • They will clean the area with an alcohol wipe and press a small, fine needle into your vein: You may feel some pain for a brief moment.
  • Blood will start to collect into a vial, at which time the technician will remove the tourniquet to encourage more blood flow.
  • The needle will be removed from your arm and the technician will place a cotton ball or cotton gauze square over the puncture site to stop the bleeding, along with a bandage.

Tell the technician if you start to feel woozy or lightheaded. It can help to look away from the blood collection if necessary.

Finger Prick

If you're having your fasting glucose levels monitored, you may just need a finger prick in the office. This point-of-care test usually gets quick results and is only slightly uncomfortable, not painful.


As long you're not feeling faint or weak, you should be free to leave as soon as the test is complete. If you're feeling dizzy, you may be asked to sit in the waiting room for a few minutes. This would be the time to have a snack to replenish low blood sugar levels as a result of fasting.

After the Test

After your blood draw, you can head home or get back to your day.

Managing Side Effects

Keep an eye on the puncture site to make sure the bleeding has stopped; note if there's any bruising, swelling, or signs of infection (warmth, or redness). Bruising should go away on its own in a few days, but swelling and infection may require medical attention.

Interpreting Results

Depending if your test took place in your healthcare provider's office or in a lab, results may take anywhere from the same day to up to a week to arrive.

Diagnostic categories are based on glucose levels in the blood and include the following, measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

Reading Interpretation
70 mg/dL to 99 mg/dL Normal
100 mg/dL to 126 mg/dL Prediabetes/increased risk of diabetes
Over 126 mg/dL Diabetes
Under 55 mg/dL Hypoglycemia/dangerously low
Results may vary slightly from lab to lab. Two abnormal results from tests taken on two different days are required to confirm a diagnosis.

If your FPG test results are borderline or elevated and indicate diabetes, the test will need to be repeated a second time in the near future or other tests might be performed, such as the hemoglobin A1C test, oral glucose tolerance test, or the postprandial plasma glucose test.

Results may be lower if blood is drawn in the afternoon rather than in the morning. A glucose level sometimes can be falsely low if too much time passes between when the blood is drawn and the lab processes the sample. The results can also be affected by previous or current medical conditions or by personal habits, such as smoking and exercise.

A healthcare professional should consider a person’s full medical history when conducting this test and interpreting the results.

Follow Up

Depending on your confirmed results, there are several courses of action.

High FPG and Symptoms of High Blood Sugar

If you are experiencing symptoms of elevated blood sugar and your FPG reading is above 126 mg/dL, that may be enough evidence for your healthcare provider to confirm your diagnosis of diabetes.

In that case, you and your healthcare provider will discuss setting up a treatment plan. Depending on the type of diabetes you have, it may include regular glucose monitoring, medication, and supplements, along with lifestyle changes, such as a whole foods, low-carb diet, exercise, and stress reduction practices.

There are several reasons for having a high FPG that may not be due to diabetes:

Your healthcare provider will be able to track your symptoms and perform more tests to rule these other conditions out if necessary.


If your FPG reading is between 100 mg/dL to 126 mg/dL, the American Diabetes Association recommends that regular screening for diabetes be repeated yearly. Having prediabetes doesn't mean you'll automatically develop type 2 diabetes, however. Prediabetes (and type 2 diabetes, for that matter) are reversible conditions.

Low FPG and Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar

An FPG reading below 55mg/dL in a person without diabetes is considered hypoglycemia; the cutoff for people with diabetes is below 70mg/dL

If your FPG reading is below 70 mg/dL, this is indicative of hypoglycemia and could mean you've developed one of the following conditions:

  • Reactive (postprandial) hypoglycemia
  • Kidney or liver insufficiency
  • A pancreatic tumor like insulinoma (if FPG is below 55mg/dL and symptoms are present)
  • Hypopituitarism, a rare disorder characterized by inadequate production of hormones
  • Malabsorption syndrome
  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Severe hypothyroidism
  • Growth hormone deficiency

These conditions will also require further testing and symptom tracking by your healthcare provider.


Depending on your results, if you're using the FPG test to monitor your diabetes, your healthcare provider may want to adjust your medication or treatment plan.

Other Considerations

If you're diagnosed with diabetes based on confirmed readings from an FPG test, your healthcare provider will define which type of diabetes you have. The types are treated differently.

  • Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the pancreas may no longer be producing insulin. Additional tests may be required to check for autoimmune antibodies, such as the anti-GAD antibody and C-peptide test.
  • Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body becomes insulin resistant and can no longer efficiently process sugar for energy.
  • Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy.

Whether a person has type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes, a healthy lifestyle helps insulin to work better.

Keep an open dialogue with your healthcare provider about your results from the FPG test and what steps you should take next.

Type 2 Diabetes Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Man

A Word From Verywell

The fasting blood glucose test is a noninvasive blood test that can be used to determine diabetes risk, diagnose diabetes, and evaluate blood sugar and insulin function in people who have diabetes. Abnormal results can help guide you to make lifestyle changes and determine medication adjustments if needed. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What blood tests require fasting?

    Besides the fasting glucose plasma test, another blood test that requires fasting includes a lipid test or lipid profile. This type of test measures triglyceride and cholesterol levels in the blood to assess the risk of heart disease. It can tell you the levels of "good" cholesterol (HDL) and "bad" cholesterol (LDL) in your blood.

  • What is a random glucose tolerance test?

    A random glucose tolerance test is used to help diagnose diabetes in people experiencing symptoms of hyperglycemia or hyperglycemia crisis (a potentially serious issue in people with uncontrolled diabetes). Fasting is not required for this test, but its results may be affected by the last time a person ate food. Other tests like the A1C or glucose tolerance test may be needed depending on results.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Debra Manzella, RN
Debra Manzella, MS, RN, is a corporate clinical educator at Catholic Health System in New York with extensive experience in diabetes care.