Question:What is the role of hemoglobin A1c tests in the long-term control of my diabetes?
Answer:Hemoglobin is that protein that floats around in our bloodstream that makes our blood look red. This turns out to be a very very valuable tool as we evaluate diabetes, because red blood cells live in the bloodstream for about three months. That hemoglobin actually can pick up some of the glucose or sugar that's in the bloodstream and it accumulates it over a period of those three months. So if we can measure that specific hemoglobin A1c, that specific portion of hemoglobin, that sugar attached to it, we get a very good idea about what the average blood sugar has been for about the last three months. This gives us a lot of information about the overall regulation of a patient's diabetes.
More importantly than that perhaps, just as hemoglobin is one protein that sugar can stick to, we also know that sugar can stick to protein in the kidneys, protein in the blood vessels, protein in other parts of the body, and this is the cause of many of the complications of diabetes, so keeping that hemoglobin A1c down in a nice, normal range can actually allow us to prevent the progression of many of the complications of diabetes.