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."


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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