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HbA1c Test: Why and How is it Done?

What is HbA1c Test?|Why is HbA1c Test done?|When should HbA1c Test be repeated?|Prerequisites for HbA1c Test|Procedure for HbA1c Test|Understanding HbA1c Test Results
HbA1c Test: Why and How is it Done?

What is HbA1c Test?

HbA1c Test, also known as the A1c test, is glycated haemoglobin or glycosylated haemoglobin test. It is conducted to figure out the average blood sugar level of the past three months. That means this test will assess as to what per cent of haemoglobin in your body is sugar-coated.

Although glucose monitoring at home serves the purpose to some extent, an HbA1c test ensures that there is no room for any error. This is a test that is used to diagnose diabetes, whether type 1 or type 2 and also monitor the level of blood sugar control.

It is also called the haemoglobin A1c test.

Why is HbA1c Test done?

As mentioned above, the HbA1c test is conducted once every three months to figure out the average blood sugar level. Usually, your doctor conducts the test to rule out the possibility of three major issues that may arise due to the rising blood sugar levels:

  • Prediabetes
    Prediabetes is a situation wherein your blood sugar levels are high, but not high enough to be diabetes. However, it is a warning sign and should be treated immediately. There are high chances of prediabetes flaring into full-fledged type 2 diabetes, which can also result in heart conditions.
  • Type 1 and 2 diabetes
    To rule out the possibility of type 1 or type 2 diabetes, two separate tests will be conducted by the doctor on two different days.
  • Diabetes plan establishment
    An HbA1c test helps the doctor establish a base level of A1c. This level then becomes the benchmark for the doctor to analyse the varying levels over every three months and rule out the possibility of issues that may arise due to higher blood sugar levels. Accordingly, plans can be made to control the levels. The plan will decipher the type of diabetes or the lack of thereof, and also the treatment of it.

When should HbA1c Test be repeated?

The frequency of an HbA1c test depends on the intensity of the condition and also other factors such as age. The treatment is further curated keeping in mind an individual’s capacity and how well is the body responding by managing the levels of your blood sugar.

In most of the cases, an HbA1c test is recommended once a year in the case of prediabetes, twice a year in the case of type 1 diabetes, and four times a year in the case of type 2 diabetes. Additionally, in case you have type 2 diabetes but insulin intake is a part of your routine, you have to visit the doctor four times a year for the test.

The aforementioned is the basis of regular observation. Please note that your customised routine would be provided by the doctor only on the basis of your condition and your body’s blood sugar management capabilities. Your medication plays a role here too.

Read More : Haemoglobin Test: Why and How is it Done?

Prerequisites for HbA1c Test

If your doctor suggests an HbA1c test, you will also be told whether or not a plasma glucose test would be conducted. Here are a few prerequisites to keep in mind in that case:

  • The test does not take more than five minutes.
  • It is conducted at your local lab or the doctor’s clinic.
  • Wear short sleeves, preferably, or something which can be rolled up easily.
  • This test can be done at any time of the day, so no fasting requirements, unless specifically stated by the doctor.

Additionally, the patient can be asked to fill a few forms before conducting the test. Medical history, especially regarding fainting spells during getting injected, are asked about.

Procedure for HbA1c Test

The HbA1c test is conducted just like any other blood test. Following are the steps:

  • For the test, a technician will look for a suitable vein and tie a band around the elbow crook so that the blood is pushed down.
  • The area is cleaned with alcohol and a clean and sanitised needle is inserted into the selected vein.
  • The blood drawn will be collected in a tube.
  • The band will be untied, the needle will be taken out, and a tissue or cotton ball will be pressed over the pricked area.

Please note that in case you feel dizzy upon being pricked, immediately notify the doctor or the technician. Also, in some cases, the bleeding may not stop immediately. The technicians usually place a bandage over the pricked area, and it should heal in some time.

The point-of-care test is a follow-up test which is conducted through a finger prick. It is usually a post-diagnosis test which is done to measure and monitor the already existent diabetes.

In most of the cases, the patients can leave immediately or a few moments after the test.

Understanding HbA1c Test Results

The tests are of two kinds; one to diagnose and the other to monitor the levels of already diagnosed diabetes. Thus, the results are also interpreted accordingly.

In the case of diabetes monitoring, you first need to consult your doctor with regards to the A1c benchmark which has been set for you. Any fluctuation thereof is then assessed by the doctor. For instance, a higher level of blood sugar can lead to a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. On the other hand, a low level of blood sugar or hypoglycemia can lead to kidney disorders, anorexia, sepsis, and more.

In the case of diabetes screening, usually, if the A1c levels are below 5.7 per cent, there is no risk of diabetes. On the other hand, if it crosses 6.5 per cent, the person is diabetic. Anything in between is a borderline or prediabetic case.

HbA1c tests require follow-ups. There may be instances when your A1c levels are high yet you do not display symptoms of high blood sugar. In that case, the doctor may conduct a glucose tolerance test or a fasting plasma glucose test. In case of the symptoms being present, the doctors suggest lifestyle changes, along with medication and exercise. A high level of blood sugar level along with A1c levels hovering just on the border. In this case, yearly tests will be conducted by the doctor to make sure the levels are brought down.

HbA1c test is a usual test which needs to be conducted to make sure you do not tumble over the higher side of blood sugar.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Nikita Updated 03/09/2021
Expertly reviewed by Dr. Ruby Ezekiel