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My son was recently diagnosed with diabetes and I am still learning. What does 8% hemoglobin mean as related to the readings on glucose meters?

A glycohemoglobin level is a reflection of blood sugar control over the past several months. The terms glycohemoglobin, hemoglobin A1c, glycated hemoglobin, GHB, and a few others are roughly synonymous.

Please note: we're talking about glycohemoglobin, and not about hemoglobin, which is something else entirely. (Hemoglobin is a protein that carries oxygen around the body through the bloodstream.) But, in diabetes, as in the rest of life, we sometimes use shorthand that really doesn't apply, and get away with it!

The normal ranges of the different tests for glycohemoglobin will vary from one lab to another, and it's really rather difficult to guess if "8.0 percent" means normal, slightly high, or moderately high--it all depends on what the lab quotes as a normal range for its version of the test!

There have been some attempts made to correlate the glycohemoglobin results to the readings on the glucose meters. In general, if the average blood sugar is high on the meters, one would expect the glycohemoglobin to be high. But the reverse is not true: if the glycohemoglobin is normal, it does not automatically mean that the blood sugars have been normal: There may have been quite a few high blood sugar values, and quite a few low blood sugar values, and the patient would be in lousy control despite a good glycohemoglobin result!

Therefore, when assessing how things are going, we

  • ask about symptoms of high or low sugar that might not have been recorded in the log book because the test wasn't done,

  • look at the logbook or computer printout of the meter's memory to see trends over weeks, and trends at different times of day, and

  • Look at the glycohemoglobin level as an estimate of the control, that correlates approximately with the blood sugar levels.

Original posting 10 Jan 96


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:08:52
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