Mayo Clinic Minute: Overtesting Type 2 Diabetes Patients
Are We Overtesting People With Type 2 Diabetes?
Very Slight Fluctuations in A1c Are Common and Normal
It's important to realize that the HbA1c test shows your blood sugar levels over about an average of three months, so for people with a track record of well-controlled diabetes, the results can be the same. And if they do change, it may be because lab results can vary, she explains.
McCoy uses this as an example: “If you have a patient whose A1c is at 6.5 percent, which is great, and they have it checked three months later and it’s 6.6 or 6.7 percent, this tiny increase might be a result of the variability of the test,” she says. “And even if it isn’t, that isn’t a big enough change to increase the risk of heart disease. But because [doctors and patients can] see that tiny increase, they start to worry, ‘is it a trend?’”
That, in turn, could lead doctors to prescribe more medications to their patients. And some of these meds are not only costly, but could cause side effects like hypoglycemia, a potentially-dangerous condition that’s characterized by abnormally low blood sugar levels.
“It’s reassuring to see that your test is normal,” she says. “But I think what we have to be mindful of is, ‘is more information better?’ Sometimes, but not always. Acting on a result that is clinically not meaningful can lead to overtreatment.”
If you've recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you're not alone. Millions of Americans successfully manage their condition every day — leading vibrant, healthy lives. To get started, sign up for Everyday Health's Diabetes Step-By-Step program to get the tools you need to succeed.
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