For any diabetic, the Hemoglobin A1c test will help you and your doctor to better manage your diabetes. The hemoglobin A1c test is also called "glycosylated hemoglobin" test or "glycated hemoglobin" test. It is a simple lab test that will require a small sample of blood from one of your veins.
Unlike using a blood glucose meter — which captures your sugar levels at a given point in time, the Hemoglobin A1c test captures your body's sugar level over a three month period. Technically, it's looking for the percentage of red blood cells that have glucose "bonded" to them.
Most people who have diabetes should keep their hemoglobin A1c under seven percent. If it stays this low, then your treatment plan is working and your blood glucose is under control. If your level is higher than eight percent, a change to your treatment plan is almost always needed. When your levels are this high, you are at greater risk for eye disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage.
Most people who have diabetes have this test done at least twice a year, and many every 3 months. Your doctor may want you to have it done more often if your blood glucose stays too high or when your treatment plan changes.
The hemoglobin A1c test is an important part of your diabetes management plan and can help you tell whether your plan is working. Talk to your doctor about the results and keep a running record of each test.
Written by award-winning health writer Bobbie Hasselbring
Reviewed by Beth Seltzer, MD
Last updated June 2008