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November is Diabetes Awareness Month

Prevent Blindness America (PBA) has designated November as National Diabetes Month. There are approximately 29 million people in the United States (9.3 percent) with Diabetes.  Diabetes can cause diabetic retinopathy, cataract, and glaucoma.  Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among working-age adults.  What is most alarming about diabetic eye disease is that there may not be any early symptoms.  Because of this, visual impairment may not develop until the disease has reached the advanced stage; at this point, the vision that has been lost cannot be restored.

Treatments for diabetic eye disease are most effective when the condition is diagnosed early on in the disease process.  Therefore, it is important for those with diabetes, even those at risk for diabetes, to have yearly eye examinations since eye doctors are often the first health care providers to detect diabetes.

What is a Diabetes A1C Test?

During the course of diabetes care, most patients have a special blood test done every three or four months. It is called the hemoglobin A1C test. The major benefit of the A1C test is that it provides a measure of how your blood glucose levels have averaged over the past two to three months, and so gives more of a “big picture” of your overall blood sugar control. The daily blood glucose checks that you do yourself gives you a measure of your blood glucose level at that moment, but daily blood glucose levels can fluctuate quite a bit. The value of the A1C test is that it provides an excellent measure of how your blood glucose levels have been over the past two or three months. The A1C test is extremely important for monitoring how well your diabetes is controlled.

What A1C target should people have?

People will have different A1C targets depending on their diabetes history and their general health. People should discuss their A1C target with their health care provider. Studies have shown that people with diabetes can reduce the risk of diabetes complications by keeping A1C levels below 7 percent.

Maintaining good blood glucose control will benefit those with new-onset diabetes for many years to come. However, an A1C level that is safe for one person may not be safe for another. For example, keeping an A1C level below 7 percent may not be safe if it leads to problems with hypoglycemia, also called low blood glucose. For more on the A1C test, click here.