What is a Diabetic A1C Test?

During the course of diabetes care, most patients have a special blood test done every three or four months.  It is called the hemoglobin A1C test.  The major benefit of the A1C test is that it provides a measure of how your blood glucose levels have averaged over the past two or three months, and so gives more of a "big picture" of your overall blood sugar control.  The daily blood glucose checks that you do yourself give you a measure of your blood glucose level at the moment, but daily blood glucose levels can fluctuate quite a bit.  The A1C test is extremely important for monitoring how well your diabetes is controlled.

The good news is this is a very simple test to understand.  It is reported as a small number and should be below "7."  For most people with diabetes, the A1C should be between "6" and "7"- this indicates good, consistent control.  If your A1C number is lower than "6" that is even better.  But any reading below "7" is generally acceptable.

Many times, health care providers are too busy and/or patients simply don't ask about their blood work.  The purpose of this handout is to encourage you to take a more active role in your diabetes care.  One very important factor in your diabetes care is for you to always ask your doctor, nurse or diabetic counselor to inform you of your A1C number.  They will be glad to share this important information with you.

Knowing your A1C number will enable you to know how your overall diabetic control is.  Be sure to ask any member of your diabetes care team any questions that you may have about your care.

A final note:  The retina within the eye is the only place in the body where blood vessels can be observed and evaluated.  Since diabetes primarily affects the blood vessels, it is very important to have a dilated eye examination every year.  This is even more important if your A1C readings tend to be higher than "7."

Preparing for Your Eye Exam

There are some simple but important ways to prepare for your risks of eye and vision problems.

 

 When making an appointment, briefly but clearly describe any of your eye or vision concerns

 

 If you're interested in specialty services, such as a LASIK consultation or contact lens fitting, mention this when scheduling your exam and when checking in

 

 Note any personal or family history of eye problems

 

Avoid eye strain on your exam day

 

Be prepared to provide a list of prescription medications or supplements you're currently taking, or regularly took in the past, and the dosages

 

If you wear glasses, bring them to your exam-if you wear contact lenses, bring a copy of your most recent prescription

 

Take your sunglasses to your exam as your pupils will likely be dilated, causing some light sensitivity for several hours

 

Because your eyes will be sensitive afterward, you may want to have someone else drive you to and from your appointment

 

If you have health or vision insurance be sure to bring your insurance card

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REMEDIES FOR CONTACT LENS DISCOMFORT

Are your contact lenses uncomfortable?  Trying one or more of these remedies may be just what you need to get some comfort back into your life with your lenses.

However, if your eyes have turned red, painful or you are experiencing decreased vision, immediately remove your contacts and consult your eye doctor.

 

ARTIFICIAL TEARS

Artificial tears can relieve occasional dryness.  Make sure the drops you choose are approved for use with contact lenses.  Always read the label!!

 

DISINFECTING/CLEANING SOLUTIONS

Are you manually cleaning your contact lenses as soon as you remove them? Or do you just put them in the case and assume all the cleaning is done by the solution? When contacts are stored dirty, after 14 - 30 days they have a pretty good buildup of daily grime.  These deposits that haven't been removed by manual cleaning cause discomfort and decreased vision.  

If you are using the newer silicone hydrogel lenses, the type of cleaning/disinfecting solution you use is critical.  Check on the box of your solution - it will say whether it has been approved for use with silicone hydrogel lenses.  


CONTACT LENS CASES

Clean your case every day.  Let it air dry.  Cases are the perfect bacteria breeding ground.  

  

NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS

If your dryness and discomfort is due to poor tear composition, which leads to rapid evaporation, then you may want to introduce omega 3 fatty acids, as well as flax seed oil into your vitamin regimen.  

 

DIFFERENT CONTACTS

There are many types of contacts available these days.  Some are made of different types of plastics, some have different water content.Sometimes just changing the way you wear your lenses can lead to better comfort.  

Daily Disposables - Starting each day with a brand new lens may help if build up of deposits has been an issue.  As your eye dries out, airborne particles stick to your lenses, causing hazy vision and watery eyes.  Dailies may be especially useful during the allergy season.    

Low Water Lenses -  A good rule of thumb is never put a high water lens in a low water eye.  Most lenses today have a high water content and need a lot of tears to maintain comfort.  In using a lower water content lens, the thought process is that the lens doesn't require as much tears to keep it hydrated (comfortable).

Silicone Hydrogel Lenses - These allow greater oxygen to reach the eye, which means greater comfort.  You must pay close attention to your cleaning products, however, because not all disinfecting/cleaning products have been approved for use with silicone hydrogel lenses.  

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