Friday, June 21, 2013

The A1C Test for Diabetes Diagnosis and Management

The A1C test is used both for screening and for diabetes management. As a screening test it is used to diagnose diabetes and pre-diabetic conditions. As a management tool, it keeps track of your blood glucose levels over a three-month period.

How A1C Works

When sugar enters your blood stream, most of it should go into your cells for conversion into energy. What does not go into the cells stays in the blood and attaches to the red blood cells. The attachment of blood sugar, or glucose, to these blood cells is called hemoglobulin A1C, glycohemoglobin, or just HbA1c.

The test measures the percentage of sugar attached to the red blood cells. Since red blood cells live approximately three months, the test records the average percentage of sugar in the blood for that time period. A high percentage means a large amount of sugar is staying in the blood and could indicate pre-diabetes or full-blown diabetes.

A1C for Diagnosis

Traditionally diabetes is diagnosed using a standard blood glucose test. This type of test only measures the amount of sugar in the blood at the time the blood is drawn; it cannot provide readings for any points prior.

Standard blood glucose tests also require the patient to fast for at least eight hours prior to the blood draw to get accurate results.

Because the A1C does not require the patient to fast, and reports blood sugar over a longer period of time, it can be used to effectively diagnose diabetes. A doctor could use the A1C alone, or use the test in conjunction with the standard blood glucose test, to reach a diagnosis.

An A1C between 5.7 percent and 6.4 percent is considered pre-diabetic and a reading at 6.5 percent or higher is considered diabetic.

It is possible to have conflicting results between the A1C and standard glucose tests – one test might indicate diabetes while the other doesn’t. If the tests conflict, the physician will usually advise lifestyle changes, such as exercise and a healthier diet, and retest after a reasonable timeframe has passed.

A1C for Management

The A1C is a valuable management tool because it shows your average glucose control over a period of months. When used in conjunction with daily glucose readings, it helps paint a clearer picture of how the patient is managing her blood sugar.

Diabetes Treatment and Management

Individuals who have been diagnosed pre-diabetic can often prevent developing full-blown diabetes with small lifestyle changes

For individuals diagnosed as diabetic, the treatment depends on the type of diabetes. Type 2 diabetics are initially prescribed drugs like Metformin, which help the body use insulin to get sugar out of the blood. Type 1 diabetics, and type 2 diabetics who don’t respond to Metformin, are typically prescribed insulin.

You can also purchase your diabetic medications from a Canadian pharmacy if you don’t have insurance or can’t afford to purchase your medications from a US pharmacy.  If you decide to get your prescriptions from a Canadian pharmacy, make sure it is registered as a CIPA Pharmacy (Canadian International Pharmacy Association).

Diabetic medications are only available by prescription, but certain diabetic supplies – glucose meters, lancets, and test strips – are available over the counter. You can purchase them from a brick-and-mortar store, or from an online retailer, including an online Canadian pharmacy.

The above entry is a guest blog entry.

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