HbA1c is developed when glucose joins with hemoglobin in the blood. The term HbA1c is connected to diabetes. HbA1c denotes glycated hemoglobin. HbA1c tests assist a doctor in determining how a patient’s average blood sugar levels were in a certain period of time.

For diabetic patients, an HbA1c blood test is crucial as it assists in preventing diabetes-related complications.

How is HbA1c blood test done?

To determine the HbA1c levels of a patient, a doctor draws a blood sample from the patient’s arm and then uses the blood to get a reading. In some instances, like children undergoing the HbA1c test, a single blood droplet can be used to determine the HbA1c levels of the child.

The procedure

During HbA1c test, a doctor draws blood from the patient’s vein. For infants, the doctor uses a lancet to puncture the heel in order to be able to obtain blood. If the doctor wants to draw the patient’s blood from a vein, the doctor uses antiseptic to clean the patient’s skin. Then, the doctor places an elastic band or tourniquets in the patient’s upper arm to exert pressure and make the veins to be more visible. The doctor inserts a needle into the patient’s vein and draws blood using a syringe or vial. The elastic band is then removed after the procedure. The test usually takes very few minutes, and once blood is collected, it is sent to a laboratory for further examination.

What the patient should expect during HbA1c test

The doctor can decide to use the patient’s finder, vein or heel to draw sample blood. This process is momentarily uncomfortable, and the patient should expect to fell a quick pinprick. After the test, the patient should expect a mild bruising which disappears within a few days.

Test results

Many doctors, particularly those who deal with diabetes can analyze the blood and give the patient results immediately since most of them own blood-analysis equipment. But, there are those doctors who usually send the blood samples to the laboratory for further analysis.

Interpretation of test results

The doctor usually gives every patient an individual HbA1c target. Generally, HbA1c targets should be below 48 mmol/mol or 6.5% to avoid the risk of complications like heart disease, nerve damage, kidney disease and eye problems.

Patients who are at the risk of severe hypoglycemia are given an HbA1c target of not more than 59 mmol/mol or 7.5%. Some conditions affecting anemia and hemoglobin usually affect the HbA1c test. Also, supplements like vitamins C and E, and even high cholesterol levels, kidney and liver disease can also affect the test results of HbA1c blood test.

Generally, the increase in HbA1c also increases the risk of complications. However, a patient should understand that laboratories have different methods of measuring HbA1c, and this means that the normal test results can differ. But the doctor can assist the patient to understand the test results.

The risks of HbA1c blood test

An Hba1c blood test is a safe procedure. However, having blood drawn can lead to the following complications:

  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Hematoma – a condition where blood accumulates under the patient’s skin, causing a bruise or a lump
  • Pain, especially if multiple punctures were done to locate the patient’s vein.

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