HbA1c Test: Definition, Purpose, and Significance

Glucose serves as the body's primary energy source, circulating as blood glucose or blood sugar. In individuals with normal glucose tolerance, the body automatically monitors and regulates blood glucose levels. However, in people with impaired glucose tolerance, it becomes crucial to monitor it at regular intervals as they are at higher risk of developing diabetes mellitus. 


Excess glucose in the blood is bad for the body as it can lead to various health complications, impacting organs such as the brain, kidneys, and liver, and potentially resulting in heart disease, kidney failure, and blindness. 


What is an HbA1c test?


The HbA1c test is a simple blood test that determines the average blood sugar levels over the last three months. It is a commonly used test that aids in diagnosing and managing various forms of diabetes, including type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and gestational diabetes. A1C testing is essential for most people with diabetes as it not only helps find out blood sugar levels, it can also be used in the initial diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. 


When glucose enters the bloodstream, it get attached to hemoglobin - a protein in red blood cells. The test calculates the percentage of hemoglobin in the blood that has glucose attached to it. A rise in blood glucose means more of the hemoglobin is attached with glucose. 


Why would I need this test?


The test may be recommended to ascertain the presence of diabetes and evaluate the risk of type 2 diabetes. For those exhibiting type 2 diabetes symptoms, the test confirms the diagnosis.


For individuals having diabetes, the test can tell how well the diabetes has been managed over the last few months. In view of this, diabetic people are advised to go for this test because the higher the HbA1c, the greater is the risk of an individual developing diabetes complications.


What to expect?


Unlike other blood tests used to diagnose diabetes, the test does not require fasting or other specific preparations. This test can be taken up at any time of the day, and there’s no need to skip meals before the test. It is important to inform your doctor if an individual is taking any medications, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and supplements. For the test, a blood sample is taken through a needle from a vein, which is then sent to a laboratory for testing.


Who should go for this test, and when?


For diabetes or prediabetes screening:


Individuals aged 45 or more are generally recommended to go for this test. It is also suggested for individuals who are under 45 and overweight, and exhibit one or more risk factors for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.


If the result are within normal range, but an individual is aged 45 or more, possesses risk factors, or has a history of gestational diabetes, then this test may be repeated every 3 years.


If the result indicates prediabetes, then it is important to consult the doctor to improve overall health reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.


What can affect the test result?


Several factors can falsely raise or lower the results, including:


  • Anemia
  • Blood loss or blood transfusions
  • Kidney failure or liver disease
  • Early or late pregnancy.


Consult your doctor if any of these factors are relevant to you, and inquire about the necessity for further tests to determine your situation.



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