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HbA1c test

3-minute read

What is being tested?

HbA1c is a blood test that is used to help diagnose and monitor people with diabetes. It is also sometimes called a haemoglobin A1c, glycated haemoglobin or glycosylated haemoglobin.

HbA1c refers to glucose and haemoglobin joined together (the haemoglobin is ’glycated’). Haemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. The amount of HbA1c formed is directly related to the amount of glucose in the blood.

Red blood cells live for up to 4 months, so HbA1c gives an indication of how much sugar there has been in the blood over the past few months. It’s different to the blood glucose test, which measures how much sugar is in the blood at that moment.

Why would I need this test?

The test for HbA1c is used to diagnose and monitor diabetes.

For people who have diabetes, the test is used to indicate how well the diabetes has been controlled over the last few months. People with diabetes are advised to have this test every 3 to 6 months, or more frequently if it is not under control.

This is important. The higher the HbA1c, the greater the risk of developing complications such as problems with your eyes and kidneys.

How to prepare for this test

No preparation is needed for this test.

Understanding your results

If you have not previously been diagnosed as having diabetes, an HbA1c of 6.5% or more can indicate that you do have diabetes. If your level is lower than this, you might need other tests to check whether you have diabetes or not.

If you do have diabetes, your doctor will usually aim for an HbA1c of 6.5-7%. If the HbA1c is higher than the target range, your doctor may consider changing your treatment or closer monitoring.

There are some medical conditions, such as anaemia, that change red blood cells and affect your HbA1c result.

You should discuss the results with your doctor to see what they mean in your particular situation.

HbA1c test explanation video

Video provided by Pathology Tests Explained

More information

About HbA1c testing

Visit the Pathology Tests Explained website for more information about HbA1c testing.

About blood testing

Visit our ‘Guide to blood testing’ to learn more about blood tests in general with information such as:

  • what to consider before having the test
  • what happens during a blood test
  • results accuracy
  • blood tests cost

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2020

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