HBA1c (Glycosylated Haemoglobin) Test

A glycosylated haemoglobin test (HbA1c) is a blood test that analyses the percentage of haemoglobin (a protein found in blood red cells) that  is attached to glucose.

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What is an HBA1c (Glycosylated Haemoglobin) test? 

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

What is an HBA1c (Glycosylated Haemoglobin) test used for?

The haemoglobin A1c test may have several purposes:

  • Screening for prediabetes and diabetes: Screening means monitoring for health conditions before a person experiences symptoms. If you are over 40 and are obese or overweight, or if you are otherwise at high risk for diabetes, your doctor may want to screen you. It may be repeated to confirm diagnoses. 

  •  Diagnosing prediabetes and diabetes:. Your doctor may recommend a HBA1c test for you, among other tests, if you have any symptoms or show signs of diabetes. Diabetes symptoms can include excessive thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision, tingling or loss of sensation in the feet and hands, and feeling extremely tired.

  • Monitoring diabetes: If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor may recommend  a HBA1c test for you at least twice a year. This will help your doctor with an idea of how well your blood glucose has been controlled in the months between your appointments. Keeping track of your blood glucose will allow your doctor to make adjustments to your treatment plan and lower your chance of health problems.

Important to note that HBA1c test is not used to diagnose gestational diabetes, a form of the disease that can develop during pregnancy.

 

What are the other names for a HBA1c (Glycosylated Haemoglobin) test?

A1c, glycohemoglobin, glycated haemoglobin

 

Why do I need an HBA1c (Glycosylated Haemoglobin) test?

If you have diabetes, you should opt for  an HBA1c test two to four times a year to see how you are managing it. Your healthcare team will order exactly how often you should get tested.

 

If you haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes, a healthcare provider may order an HBA1c test if you have any symptoms of the condition. These symptoms include:

  • Blurry vision.

  • Fatigue, or feeling tired all the time.

  • increased urination (peeing).

  • Unusual thirst.

 

You may also get an HBA1c test if you are at risk for diabetes. Risk factors include:

  • Extra weight or obesity.

  • family history of diabetes.

  • lack of activity or exercise.

  • history of heart disease.

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure).

  • Old age.

What are the normal values of an HbA1c (Glycosylated Haemoglobin) test?

  • Normal: HbA1c below 5.7%,

  • Prediabetes: HbA1c between 5.7% and 6.4%

  • Diabetes: HbA1c of 6.5% or higher

Who performs an HBA1c (Glycosylated Haemoglobin) test?

A healthcare provider known as a phlebotomist usually performs the blood draw, including those for an HBa1c test, but any healthcare provider trained in drawing blood can perform this task. Your healthcare provider then sends the blood samples to a lab where a medical laboratory scientist prepares the samples and performs the tests on machines known as analysers.

 

How do I prepare for an HBA1c (Glycosylated Haemoglobin) test?

The A1C test is a simple blood test. You don't need to be in fasting for the A1C test, so you can eat and drink normally before the test.

What should I expect during my HBA1c (Glycosylated Haemoglobin) test?

The person drawing your blood will:

  • Ask you to pull up your sleeves on the upper arm (for example, by rolling up your sleeve).

  • Tie a band called a tourniquet around your upper arm.

  • Clean the area on the inner arm with disinfectants, where it bends.

  • And then insert a thin needle into a vein.

  • And collect blood into a tube attached to the needle.

  • Remove the needle from the vein, then put a spot band-aid on the tiny hole.

What should I expect after my HBA1c (Glycosylated Haemoglobin) test?

You usually return to normal activities after a haemoglobin A1c test. If you receive a blood draw, the phlebotomist will put a small spot band-aid over the pricked site to make sure that the bleeding stops. If you want to leave the bandage on for an hour or more. You may have noticed some bruising where the needle was inserted.

Fingersticks do not typically cause lasting pain or discomfort. If needed, you can apply a bandage to your fingertip to stop the bleeding.

 

What are the risks of an HBA1c (Glycosylated Haemoglobin) test?

These blood tests are very common and don’t carry any significant risks. You may have a  slight pain like an ant bite when the needle gets inserted, and a small bruise may develop there.

What is the cost of a HBA1c test?

What do the results of an HBA1c (Glycosylated Haemoglobin) test mean?

An A1c test result gets reported as a percentage. The number represents the portion of haemoglobin proteins that are glycated, or hold glucose. The higher the percentage, the higher your blood sugar levels have been over the last few months.

  • Less than 5.7% means you don’t have diabetes.

  • 5.7% to 6.4% signals pre-diabetes.

  • 6.5% or higher means a diabetes diagnosis.

  • 7% or lower is the goal for someone trying to manage their diabetes.

What does a high and low HBA1c (Glycosylated Haemoglobin) test result mean?

People with diabetes need to manage their blood sugar levels to prevent them from becoming too high.

Managing blood sugar levels can reduce the risk of complications affecting the small blood vessels, especially those of the eyes and kidneys, and the coronary arteries. This can help to prevent many of the problems that can occur with diabetes, including

  • vision loss

  • cardiovascular disease

  • stroke

  • kidney disease

 

Reaching and maintaining an A1C of 7% or lower can significantly reduce these risks.

However, everyone is different. An individual can work with a healthcare professional to determine their blood sugar and A1C targets.

 

When should I know the results of my HBA1c (Glycosylated Haemoglobin) test?

These reports are available via email or WhatsApp within 6 hours of the collection of the blood sample.

 

What are the next steps?

If you have anaemia or another type of blood disorder, an HbA1c test may be less accurate for diagnosing diabetes. If you have one of these disorders and are at risk for diabetes, your health care provider may recommend different tests.

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