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What is Glycohemoglobin?

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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 06 September 2016
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Glycohemoglobin, or glycohemoglobin A1c, is a type of blood test used by health professionals to monitor and manage diabetes. It has several advantages over standard blood sugar tests including that it provides a long-term reading of the patient’s glucose levels. The test is relatively simple to perform, although more than one sample of blood may need to be taken in some cases. Aside from assessing a person’s glucose levels, the test is also used to check for potential diabetes-related complications such as kidney failure and eye problems.

The reason glycohemoglobin is so commonly used for diabetes assessment is that it provides a long-term overview of the patient’s glucose levels. For this reason, it is useful for diagnosing the condition and for checking that a patient is managing it correctly. Most patients will need to undergo a glycohemoglobin test every four to six months because this provides an accurate image of how blood sugar levels are changing. Until recently, the test was only used to assess how well a person with diabetes is managing the condition, but it has now been approved as a diagnostic tool.

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There are other ways to monitor diabetes — most commonly a blood sugar test — but a glycohemoglobin test offers several advantages. First, if the patient performs a blood sugar test at home, this only provides a snapshot of the condition at that time, especially because glucose levels could vary throughout the day. Also, it is common for diabetes sufferers to forget to monitor their blood sugar levels. A glycohemoglobin test measures the A1c levels in the blood, which is a much more accurate and stable way of assessing diabetes than the other forms of monitoring.

A glycohemoglobin test usually doesn’t require any preparation by the patient. To start the procedure, the healthcare worker will stop the blood flow using an elastic band. After the area of skin has been cleaned, a needle will be inserted into a vein to take a sample of blood. This may need to be repeated several times.

There are additional benefits to using the glycohemoglobin A1c test. Aside from diagnosis of diabetes, the A1c level is a measure of how likely the patient is to suffer from other effects of diabetes. These include problems with vision or kidney failure. In most cases, the lower the level of A1c the less likely the patient is to suffer from these disorders.

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