A new diagnostic tool to diagnose and test diabetes has recently been discovered. According to researcher Allison Chang, the test called A1C blood test will no longer require patients to fast for 12 hours. In this way, people will no longer be burdened with the responsibility not to eat and drink water for hours before the test.
“It’s a new use of an old test. The A1C blood test is a non-fasting blood sample that we’ve now given a criteria for how you can make the diagnosis of diabetes,” she said.
According to researchers, aside from its non-fasting method, the A1C blood test is more reliable than the traditional way of obtaining blood glucose. The A1C test is recommended by the organization American Diabetes Association as a screening test for diabetes. This test has been around for quite a time but it is made useful only now because of the standardization that it has undergone.
Fasting Blood Sugar (FBS) – The Old Way
The majority of people who are screened for diabetes undergoes the standard test in measuring blood glucose called fasting blood sugar (FBS). This type of test requires a person to abstain from taking in food as well as fluids for 8 to 12 hours. The test is done early in the morning; a health care provider will obtain a blood sample and send it to the laboratory for analysis. A blood sugar of below 100 mg/dl is considered normal. If results show a blood sugar of more than 126 mg/dl, the doctor will order another FBS. Once the succeeding test has the same result, a definite diagnosis of diabetes will be conferred.
The fasting blood glucose test is an important component in the development of a treatment plan for diabetes; however, the test only indicates the glucose level of the current day that it was taken.
What is A1C Blood Test?
The acronym A1C means glycated hemoglobin. It measures the percentage by which glucose binds with the protein contained in hemoglobin. This test shows how well the body compensates in controlling sugar within the blood within the past 2 to 3 months. Because of this, the test is not easily influenced by stress or illnesses, which may cause fluctuations in blood glucose. However, along with its efficiency, it also comes with a price tag.
Hemoglobin plays a great role in the test because it is the primary component that will help determine blood sugar levels. Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells that links itself with sugars such as glucose. Its main function is to carry oxygen to the pulmonary cells and to all parts of the body. In uncontrolled diabetes, large amounts of glucose accumulate in the blood stream. The extra glucose will enter into the cell membranes of the red blood cells where it will bind to the molecules of hemoglobin. More excess glucose in your blood would also mean that more hemoglobin is glycated. The term glycate or A1C refers to hemoglobin that has bonded with glucose.
The A1C test follows the pattern of the life expectancy of red blood cells. Supposing a person’s blood glucose was high a week before and it has normalized this week, the memory of last week’s high blood glucose will not be erased because it is carried by the red blood cells in the form of A1C. Therefore, when a person undergoes the A1C test, it will still yield an accurate result.
Red blood cells have a life expectancy of 120 days, the reason why the A1C test is done every two or three months. As long as the old red blood cells do not die, results are accurate.
Aside from its fasting-free feature, the A1C test can also be done at the convenience of one’s own home. Scientists have developed a tool kit that can be used to obtain blood glucose at home.
The A1C test has made a great contribution in the management of diabetes. People no longer rely on a series of fasting tests that is not only a burden to many but can also cause detrimental side effects such as hypoglycemia. According to researchers, the fasting blood sugar (FBS) test is not an efficient diagnostic tool in confirming the existence of diabetes. There have been many patients who underwent FBS who showed good signs of glycemic control but surprisingly develop serious complications over time.
In a normal person without diabetes, the average percent of glycated hemoglobin is 5%. For people who have high sugar levels and diabetes, A1C levels are abnormally high. The level of A1C in the blood depends on the average level of glucose that a person has during the past weeks and months.
Although the test has been a major breakthrough in the world of diabetes, doctors say that it cannot replace the traditional day-to-day self-testing of glucose.