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Glycosylated Hemoglobin Test

(HbA1c; GHb; Glycohemoglobin; Diabetic Control Index)

Definition

A glycosylated hemoglobin test (HbA1c) is a blood test that measures the percentage of hemoglobin (a protein found in blood red cells) that has attached to glucose. The higher your blood sugar is, the more that glucose gets attached to your hemoglobin.

Glycohemoglobin

glucose and RBC
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Reasons for Test    TOP

HbA1c shows how high your blood sugar levels have been during the past 3 months.

  • This can help your doctor determine how well you are controlling your diabetes.
  • Your doctor may also use HbA1c to test you for diabetes.
  • It may also be used to screen for diabetes in high risk people, including:
    • Adults of any age who are overweight or obese (BMI ≥ 25 kg/m²)
    • People who have one or more additional risk factors for diabetes, such as first-degree relative with type 1 diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or high risk ethnic background

Possible Complications    TOP

There are no major complications associated with this test.

What to Expect    TOP

Description of Test

You will be asked to sit. An area inside your elbow will be cleaned with an antiseptic wipe. A large band will be tied around your arm. The needle will then be inserted into a vein. A tube will collect the blood from the needle. The band on your arm will be removed. After all the blood is collected, the needle will be removed. Some gauze will be placed over the site to help stop bleeding. You may also be given a bandage to place over the site. The process takes about 5-10 minutes.

After Test

Apply pressure to the site until bleeding stops.

How Long Will It Take?    TOP

Less than 5 minutes

Will It Hurt?    TOP

It may hurt slightly when the needle is inserted.

Results    TOP

If your HbA1c levels are high and you have never been diagnosed with type diabetes talk to your doctor about what to do next

Talk to your doctor about what goal is right for you. If your HbA1c levels are high, you may need a change in treatment, such as:

  • Changing your medications
  • Increasing your level of physical activity
  • Modifying your diet

Talk with your doctor about when you should be tested again.

Call Your Doctor    TOP

After the test, call your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Persistent bleeding or discharge
  • Pain

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.

RESOURCES:

American Diabetes Association
http://www.diabetes.org
National Diabetes Education Program
http://ndep.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Diabetes Association
http://www.diabetes.ca

References:

American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes—2014. Diabetes Care. 2014 Jan;37 Suppl 1:S14-80.
Diabetes mellitus type 1. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated May 31, 2017. Accessed August 29, 2017.
Glycemic control monitoring. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114088. Updated May 31, 2017. Accessed August 29, 2017.
HbA1c measurement. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900926/HbA1c-measurement. Updated February 13, 2017. Accessed August 29, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 8/29/20175

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