The haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test has become the preferred way to diagnose diabetes among the millions of Americans who have diabetes but show no symptoms. The simple test measures longer-term blood sugar levels — without requiring patients to fast overnight.

Not best way

But a study by the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital shows it's not the best way to diagnose diabetes in children.

But U-M researchers say more study is needed before doctors can safely rely on using haemoglobin A1c for children.

“We found that haemoglobin A1c is not as reliable a test for identifying children with diabetes and pre-diabetes compared with adults," says study lead author Joyce M. Lee, a paediatric endocrinologist at Mott Children's Hospital. “Using this test in children may lead to missed cases.”

New insight

The study was published online ahead of print in Journal of Pediatrics and provides new insight on effectively diagnosing diabetes in children.

In 2010, the American Diabetes Association released guidelines recommending HbA1c be exclusively used for diagnosing diabetes in children and adults.

For the study, Mott researchers evaluated the testing results of 1,156 obese and overweight adolescents, ages 12-18. The ADA recommends screening only obese and overweight kids because their weight puts them at higher risk for developing diabetes.

The guidelines

According to the guidelines, individuals without symptoms would be classified as having diabetes if HbA1c values reach 6.5 percent and as having pre-diabetes if HbA1c values reached between 6 and 6.4 percent on two separate tests.

According to a University of Michigan press release, the cut-off point may need to be lower for kids.

Until more definitive studies are available, it's premature to use HbA1c for children, authors say. — Our Bureau

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