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Every three to six months, your internist or general practitioner may request a blood sugar test called a hemoglobin A1C test—also known as the HbA1C, glycohemoglobin, glycosylated hemoglobin, or glycated hemoglobin test. This test shows how well you have been managing your blood sugar for the six to 12-week period prior to your test.
You will still continue your at-home blood sugar testing, but this will help show your doctor if your plan is effective, or if you all need to rework your diabetes management.
Hemoglobin is a substance within your red blood cells that carries oxygen through your body. If your diabetes is not controlled well, excess sugar will build up on the hemoglobin over time. Coated hemoglobin is called "glycated." An A1C test measures how much glycated hemoglobin is in your blood. The more glycated hemoglobin present in your blood, the more out of control your diabetes has been in recent weeks, and the poorer your control. The higher the A1C level, the higher your risk of developing complications from diabetes.
Your doctor will use an A1C test to make an initial diabetes diagnosis—this establishes a baseline A1C level for the future—and he will use it to monitor your diabetes and see how your treatment plan is working.
For those who have had diabetes for several years, consider an A1C test a maintenance test—to make sure you don’t require a change to your plan. The A1C test gives you a months-long reading of your blood sugar level.
This depends on the type of diabetes you have, your treatment plan, and how well you’ve previously managed your blood sugar levels.
For people who don’t have diabetes, the upper limit of normal for HbA1c is 5.6 percent. The goal for people with diabetes is individualized, with the gial determined between patient and healthcare provider. In general, the higher the A1C, the greater the risks of developing complications related to diabetes.
If you are taking the A1C test to diagnose diabetes, two consecutive A1C readings over 6.5 percent are an indication of diabetes. An A1C reading between 5.7 and 6.4 percent is indicative of prediabetes—this means you are at risk for developing diabetes if you do not take steps to prevent it.
The effectiveness of an A1C test may be limited in certain cases. Here are a few:
Written by: Kimberly Holland
Medically reviewed on: Jun 17, 2014: Jason Baker, MD
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