The HbA1c test has been around for nearly 3 decades and in the past decade has been used to diagnose Type 2 diabetes in adults. Now researchers say that the HbA1c test can also be used to diagnose Type 2 diabetes in children and teenagers. The test is far more convenient than the current methods of diagnosis.
HbA1c is a simple test that checks the patient’s blood glucose levels over the past 8-12 weeks. It simply measures the amount of glucose that has become bound to the hemoglobin in red blood cells. If the patient has high blood glucose levels, the test can reveal for how long the blood sugar levels have been elevated.
In a recent study, researchers from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institute of Health in Arizona compared the HbA1c test to fasting plasma glucose and the 2-hour post loading glucose levels in young people. What they observed is that HbA1c was not only easy to perform but just as accurate as the older methods of diagnosing type 2 diabetes. Another benefit with the HbA1c test is that the patient does not have to be fasting for accurate diagnosis.
In this study, researchers studied nearly 2,095 children between ages 10-19 whom they monitored until they reached age 39. They also studied another group of American Indians ages 20-39 and monitored them until they reached age 59. In both groups a significant number of children and teenagers were overweight and obese. When they looked at the data they noted that HbA1c had the same sensitivity and specificity as the older tests but it was a lot easier to perform.
While the results of this study have been met with a great deal of enthusiasm, just recently there has been a new study from Oxford University which has called into question the effectiveness of the HbA1c test to screen patients who are at high risk for developing diabetes.
No one knows why the Oxford study was not sensitive but now researchers are conducting more investigation before making a universal recommendation for use of HbA1c as a screening test to check for diabetes in children and teenagers.