Diabetes is a group of diseases in which the glucose level of the blood increases. It is a serious concern today. In earlier times, the cases of diabetes were less. But lifestyle changes in today’s times have led to increased occurrence of the disease. If left undiagnosed and unmonitored, it can cause serious complications in the body. This article emphasizes on A1c test for the diagnosis of diabetes.
A person develops diabetes when the insulin level produced in the body by the pancreas is insufficient or its action is diminished. Diabetes is usually common in people aged 45 years and above. But now, even the younger generation is acquiring this disease to a large extent. Diabetes can lead to serious problems like cardiovascular disease, stroke and even kidney failure.
Types of Diabetes
Type-I Diabetes: It is also known as Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM). It is common in children. In this type, the pancreatic cells producing insulin are affected due to which body does not produce its own insulin. In such cases, insulin is supplied to the body though an external source like an injection. Since it is mostly seen in young adults and children, it is also referred to as “juvenile diabetes”.
Type-II Diabetes: It is also known as Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (NIDDM). It is common in adults. In this type, the insulin producing capacity of the pancreas is reduced and is not sufficient for the body. Factors affecting Type-II diabetes are age, less physical activity, obesity, family history and also ethnicity.
Symptoms include increased thirst, frequent urination, increased hunger, fatigue and unexplained loss of weight. People suffering from Type- II diabetes may not show any symptoms. But few symptoms can be visible which include blurring of vision, low healing capacity of the body, infection and the ones mentioned for Type-I diabetes.
Diabetes is a disease which requires proper diagnosis. Diagnosis on time helps in controlling the disease well and also prevent the development of complications. The condition is usually diagnosed by checking the blood sugar level in fasting state. This test provides results which are specific for that time. Doctors wanted a test which could provide results for past few months. A1c test is one such test.
More on A1c Test
This test is also known as HbA1c test, Hemoglobin A1c test, glycosylated hemoglobin test or glycated hemoglobin test. This diagnostic test was declared as an accurate method for diabetes diagnosis by a committee of experts in the American Diabetes Association’s annual meeting in the year 2009. This test is different from fasting blood glucose level test in the fact that, it provides average blood glucose level for the past two or three months. This helps in monitoring glucose level in the body and gives an idea about how well the glucose levels are managed.
HbA1c test measures the percentage of glycosylated hemoglobin for the past 2 or 3 months. The results are mostly influenced by the previous month’s glucose level. Hemoglobin A is a protein present in the red blood cells of the blood. The red blood cells have a life span of 120 days and hence, results obtained for the past few months are appropriate. Normal blood glucose level has no effect on the protein. Increased levels of sugar levels cause the glucose to attach to the hemoglobin resulting in glycosylated hemoglobin.
A person having normal A1c level, shows a test result around 5%. A person with diabetes should have hemoglobin A1c range of 6.5% and 7%. People showing even higher percentages of test result, indicate development of complications including kidney damage. This test is conducted twice a year, if diabetes is controlled and non insulin dependent. A quarterly test is required in case of Type I and uncontrolled diabetes.
A1c test is a simple blood test. It is carried out by a doctor or a health care team member. A person is not required to fast prior to the test. One can eat and drink normally before taking the test. This adds to the advantage of this test as it is patient-friendly. A sample of blood is withdrawn from a vein in the arm using a syringe. This blood sample is then sent to laboratory for diagnosis. The results are usually obtained in a few days.
Limitations of the Test
Here are a few limitations of the hemoglobin A1c test.
- A person with hemoglobin variant in the blood stream may show differed results.
- Low levels of iron in the blood may show false results of high levels of glycated hemoglobin.
- Excessive bleeding may show false results of low levels of glycated hemoglobin.
A1c test is largely used to confirm fasting blood glucose levels. It is very helpful in keeping a check on diabetes. Since, it gives average results, one does not require to take the test again and again. However, one should not forget the fact that this test does not provide daily glucose levels of the blood. Hence, day-to-day monitoring has to be done if someone is on insulin dosage, as insulin administration adjustments require day-to-day monitoring of blood sugar level. Proper monitoring, diet control and lifestyle changes can help a person in controlling diabetes very well and have a healthy life.