Amy got her insulin pump on the 20th June and the very next day we were back in the hospital for her quarterly clinic appointment, which included the standard glycated haemaglobin check, or HbA1c check to you and me. Tomorrow is her next clinic appointment and the much awaited HbA1c check, which will reflect on her last three months.
HbA1c – a flawed test
There’s a standard joke within the diabetic online community (#DOC) that the HbA1c is a flawed test and that its result is pretty meaningless.
It’s possible to achieve a good HbA1c result when your blood sugars have been constantly low which in turn drastically affects your quality of life. Amy reports that hypos can take a long time to recover from and can ruin a many of the hours that follow. It’s pretty much the same thing for high blood glucose readings.
So it’s much better for quality of life to have blood glucose levels that don’t wildly fluctuate.
The HbA1c check doesn’t take account for fluctuations of BGs it merely tells you your average meaning that the same result can be achieved by two people, one who’s had many hypos and hypers and another whose levels haven’t fluctuated much and stayed within the desired range of 4-8mmol.
All this is best summed up by Dave Sowerby’s excellent article – HbA1c – A Good Measure?.
So, within the #DOC if anyone gets a ‘bad’ HbA1c many of us say ‘well, don’t worry, it’s a flawed test’.
HbA1c – who cares about flaws?
The other standard joke within the #DOC is that if anyone gets a ‘good’ result then we’re all so pleased for them, praising them on their good efforts.
If their result is 6.0 to 7.0 many say ‘wow, that’s brilliant, wish we could get close to that’ and ‘tell me how you do it’.
A result any lower than 6.0 often results in jokes being made…’you don’t really have diabetes do you!?’.
Rarely does anyone mention or ask about BG fluctuation, we’re just happy for those who have done well.
When Amy was first diagnosed her HbA1c’s hovered around the 7.3-7.5 mark but recently they’ve been a lot higher.
We can explain this away as her having generally higher levels due to fears of hypos in the night, probably after reading articles in the media about people not waking up due to ‘dead in bed syndrome‘.
On 21st June 2013, at Amy’s last clinic her HbA1c was 8.2.
In March 2013 it was 8.0.
In December 2012 it was 8.3.
Why the anxiety?
We ultimately want Amy’s blood levels to be within range (4-8mmol) all the time with very little fluctuation, all because we went to minimise the chances of her getting complications later in life. So regardless of flawed test or not most people would prefer to see a lower HbA1c.
For me, I want to know that the insulin pump has made a difference. It’s already helping to minimise fluctuating BG levels and it’s helped loads with Amy’s quality of life and outlook on diabetes so (in theory) even if the HbA1c comes out the same or even slightly higher than before then we shouldn’t be worried.
I’d like a lower result too for the hospital’s sake, to know yet again that the pump has made a difference.
What do I think is going to happen?
I don’t know, really, I don’t.
It might go down: in the first 3 weeks we were sorting out Amy’s basal profile on the pump and she was having a lot of hypos, but that’s been mainly solved now and hypos are a lot fewer and far between.
It might go up: Amy’s pump has meant that she’s been snacking a lot, something she never did when injection as she would never take another injection, instead she’d avoid the snack. Amy knows that her snacking needs to reduce but at the moment it’s a rebound thing.
It might go down: Before the pump we never let Amy go to bed with a BG level any lower than the top of the range, meaning that she often went to bed at 10mmol. On the pump a 10mmol would be corrected at bed time, such is our confidence in the pump. In theory this means she runs a lot lower through the night, for many hours.
It might go up: she’s been on school holidays for the last 6 weeks and has been getting up quite late, often waking at 10mmol – which funnily seems really high nowadays.
So…I just can’t guess what the result will be.
…watching this space…
“often waking at 10mmol – which funnily seems really high nowadays”
I think that really nails it for me. Regardless of the result – and I agree completely both with the rubbishness of A1cs and the simultanepus yearning for a good number – your mindset is now changing about which results feel ‘yikes!’ and which are ‘fine’. For me this has been the biggest change I’ve noticed in myself over the 2 years of pump use. Good luck with the result 🙂
Thanks Mike, I was showing the Diasend log sheets to our Doctor today, which all its red (hyper) marks to which she said ‘it’s 10mmol, don’t panic’. 🙂