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HbA1c Test - Significance and Test Procedure

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The HbA1c test is a blood test that is commonly used to identify type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Read to know more about it.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. J. N. Naidu

Published At September 8, 2022
Reviewed AtNovember 24, 2023

What Is Diabetes Mellitus?

High blood sugar levels are the result of diabetes mellitus. Insulin transports sugar from the blood into the cells, where it is stored or utilized for energy. In diabetes, the body produces either too little insulin or does not utilize the insulin it produces efficiently. Diabetes that is poorly managed can have catastrophic implications, including damage to a variety of organs and tissues in the body, including the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves.

What Are the Different Types of Diabetes Mellitus?

Diabetes mellitus is classified into several types:

  • Diabetes Type 1 - It is an autoimmune disorder. Insulin is made by cells in the pancreas, which are attacked and killed by the immune system. The reason for this invasion is unknown. This kind affects around ten percent of diabetics.

  • Diabetes Type 2 - This develops when the body develops insulin resistance and sugar levels in the blood rise.

  • Prediabetes - When the blood sugar level is greater than usual but not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, then it may be prediabetes.

  • Gestational Diabetes - It is defined as elevated blood sugar levels throughout pregnancy. The placenta produces substances that block insulin, causing this type of diabetes.

What Is Hemoglobin?

The protein hemoglobin is present in red blood cells. It is responsible for the red hue of blood and transports oxygen throughout the body. Hemoglobin and oxygen form a reversible but unstable bond. It is a bright red color in the oxygenated state and is called oxyhemoglobin; it is purplish-blue in the reduced state.

What Is the HbA1c Test?

The quantity of glucose (sugar) in the blood is measured by a glycated hemoglobin test. It is a basic blood test that is used to detect prediabetes, which is characterized by elevated blood sugar levels that can lead to diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, the diagnosis of diabetes, and to determine how successfully a person with diabetes has managed the condition.

HbA1c results may also be affected by supplements like vitamins C and E. Kidney and liver disorders may also impact the test. The higher the HbA1C level, the worse the blood sugar management will be and the more likely it is to develop diabetic problems.

What Is the Importance of Hemoglobin In the HbA1c Test?

Hemoglobin is used in A1c testing. The oxygen in the blood is transported by hemoglobin, a component of red blood cells. When glucose is present in the blood, it glycates (sticks) to hemoglobin. This bond becomes stronger in response to rising glucose levels in the blood. And it can stay there for three months, which is roughly how long a normal red blood cell survives.

An A1c test measures how much glucose has been linked to hemoglobin over a period of time. As a result, the A1c test offers more information regarding blood sugar over a longer time period than home monitoring.

What Are the Indications of the HbA1c Test?

People under the age of 45 who have specific risk factors may require this test. These are some examples:

  • Obesity or being overweight.

  • The blood pressure is high.

  • A family history of heart disease.

  • Physically inactive.

In the case of severe diabetes, an HbA1c test may be required. Here are a few symptoms:

  • Thirst has increased.

  • Weakness and exhaustion.

  • Vision is hazy.

  • Family history of diabetes.

  • Sores or cuts that heal slowly.

  • Unintentional weight loss.

  • Urination is frequent.

  • Infections that are frequently unexplained.

  • Dry mouth.

  • Decreased sex drive.

  • Erectile dysfunction (ED).

What Is the HbA1c Test Procedure?

  • Patients taking this test do not need to fast (restrict their diet or drink) or do anything else unusual before the exam.

  • In a few areas, they may have HbA1c equipment that works similarly to a home glucose test, providing the result in a matter of minutes. Only a drop of blood from the fingertip is required for this procedure. Aside from that, most healthcare practitioners will order an HbA1c lab test.

  • This normally takes less than five minutes. This is usually obtained in a lab or hospital.

  • A medical practitioner will use a tiny needle to draw blood from a vein in the patient's arm. A small amount of blood will indeed be collected into a test tube or vial after the needle is placed. When the needle is inserted or removed, patients may experience a strange sting.

  • After removing the needle, a bandage is placed over the insertion site.

  • The results of the tests may be available the same day or up to a week later.

What Is the HbA1c Test Results Range?

HbA1c levels are expressed as percentages. The figure reflects the percentage of hemoglobin proteins that are glycated or that contain glucose. The greater the proportion, the higher the blood sugar levels have been in recent months. The typical outcomes are shown below.

  • HbA1c less than 5.7 percent is considered normal.

  • HbA1c between 5.7 and 6.4 percent indicates prediabetes.

  • HbA1c of 6.5 or above implies diabetes.

It is recommended to repeat the test every three years, even if the results are normal. Whenever prediabetes is detected, it is necessary to check every one to two years.

What Are the Risks Connected With the HbA1c Test?

In general, there are few dangers associated with the hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test, which is essential for managing diabetes. There are risks associated with regular blood draws, including discomfort, the possibility of inaccurate results from uncommon hemoglobin variations or illnesses like anemia or kidney disease, as well as lab-to-lab variation. Results may be affected in pregnant people. Another issue is the over-reliance on HbA1c and its inability to capture changes in daily glucose levels. Communication with healthcare professionals is essential to address specific concerns and guarantee thorough diabetes control, even though it is uncommon.

Conclusion

The HbA1c test determines the average blood sugar level over the previous two to three months. Diabetes patients frequently require this test to ensure their levels remain within normal limits. It can tell whether the patient is required to change their diabetic medications. Diabetes is also diagnosed with the HbA1c test.

This test may give false findings to those with hemoglobin-related disorders, such as anemia. It is more effective to treat and control diabetes if it is discovered early. People who can better regulate their blood sugar levels are more likely to live a long and healthy life.

Dr. J. N. Naidu
Dr. J. N. Naidu

General Practitioner

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