A1C is a lab test that shows the average level of blood sugar (glucose) over the previous 3 months. It shows how well you are controlling your diabetes.
A blood sample is needed. Two methods are available:
No special preparation is needed. The food you have recently eaten does not affect the A1C test, so you do not need to fast to prepare for this blood test.
With a finger stick, you may feel slight pain.
With blood drawn from a vein, you may feel a slight pinch or some stinging when the needle is inserted. Afterward, there may be some throbbing or a slight bruise. This soon goes away.
Your provider may order this test if you have diabetes. It shows how well you are controlling your diabetes.
The test may also be used to screen for diabetes.
Ask your provider how often you should have your A1C level tested. Usually, testing every 3 or 6 months is recommended.
The following are the results when A1C is being used to diagnose diabetes:
If you have diabetes, you and your provider will discuss the correct range for you. For many people, the goal is to keep the level below 7%.
The test result may be incorrect in people with anemia, kidney disease, or certain blood disorders (thalassemia). Talk to your provider if you have any of these conditions. Certain medicines can also result in a false A1C level.
The examples above are common measurements for results of these tests. Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your provider about the meaning of your specific test results.
An abnormal result means that you have had a high blood sugar level over a period of weeks to months.
If your A1C is above 6.5% and you do not already have diabetes, you may be diagnosed with diabetes.
If your level is above 7% and you have diabetes, it often means that your blood sugar is not well controlled. You and your provider should determine your target A1C.
The higher your A1C, the higher the risk that you will develop problems such as:
If your A1C stays high, talk to your provider about how to best manage your blood sugar.
There is little risk involved with having your blood taken. Veins and arteries vary in size from one person to another and from one side of the body to the other. Taking blood from some people may be more difficult than from others.
Other risks of having blood drawn are slight, but may include:
Reviewed By: Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.