Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) Test: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information


What is a hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test?

A hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test measures the amount of blood sugar (glucose) attached to hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the part of your red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. An HbA1c test shows what the average amount of glucose attached to hemoglobin has been over the past three months. It’s a three-month average because that’s typically how long a red blood cell lives.

If your HbA1c levels are high, it may be a sign of diabetes, a chronic condition that can cause serious health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage.

Other names: HbA1c, A1c, glycohemoglobin, glycated hemoglobin, glycosylated hemoglobin

What is it used for?

An HbA1c test may be used to check for diabetes or prediabetes in adults. Prediabetes means your blood sugar levels show you are at risk for getting diabetes.

If you already have diabetes, an HbA1c test can help monitor your condition and glucose levels.

Why do I need an HbA1c test?

You may need an HbA1c test if you have symptoms of diabetes. These include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue

Your health care provider may also order an HbA1c test if you are at higher risk for getting diabetes. Risk factors include:

What happens during an HbA1c test?

A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.

Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?

You don’t need any special preparations for an HbA1c test.

Are there any risks to the test?

There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.

What do the results mean?

HbA1c results are given in percentages. Typical results are below.

  • Normal: HbA1c below 5.7%
  • Prediabetes: HbA1c between 5.7% and 6.4
  • Diabetes: HbA1c of 6.5% or higher

Your results may mean something different. If you have questions about your results, talk to your health care provider.

If you have diabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends keeping your HbA1c levels below 7%. Your health care provider may have other recommendations for you, depending on your overall health, age, weight, and other factors.

Is there anything else I need to know about an HbA1c test?

The HbA1c test is not used for gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that only affects pregnant women, or for diagnosing diabetes in children.

Also, if you have anemia or another type of blood disorder, an HbA1c test may be less accurate for diagnosing diabetes. If you have one of these disorders and are at risk for diabetes, your health care provider may recommend different tests.

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Semen Analysis: MedlinePlus Lab Test Information


What is a semen analysis?

A semen analysis, also called a sperm count, measures the quantity and quality of a man’s semen and sperm. Semen is the thick, white fluid released from the penis during a man’s sexual climax (orgasm). This release is called ejaculation. Semen contains sperm, the cells in a man that carry genetic material. When a sperm cell unites with an egg from a woman, it forms an embryo (the first stage of an unborn baby’s development).

A low sperm count or abnormal sperm shape or movement can make it difficult for a man to make a woman pregnant. The inability to conceive a baby is called infertility. Infertility can affect men and women. For about one-third of couples unable to have children, male infertility is the reason. A semen analysis can help figure out the cause of male infertility.

Other names: sperm count, sperm analysis, semen testing, male fertility test

What is it used for?

A semen analysis is used to find out if a problem with semen or sperm may be causing a man’s infertility. The test may also be used to see if a vasectomy has been successful. A vasectomy is a surgical procedure that is used to prevent pregnancy by blocking the release of sperm during sex.

Why do I need a semen analysis?

You may need a semen analysis if you and your partner have been trying to have a baby for at least 12 months without success.

If you’ve recently had a vasectomy, you may need this test to make sure the procedure has worked.

What happens during a semen analysis?

You will need to provide a semen sample. The most common way to provide your sample is to go to a private area in your health care provider’s office and masturbate into a sterile container. You should not use any lubricants. If masturbation is against your religious or other beliefs, you may be able to collect your sample during intercourse using a special type of condom. Talk to your health care provider if you have questions or concerns about providing your sample.

You will need to provide two or more additional samples within a week or two. That’s because sperm count and semen quality can vary from day to day.

Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?

You will need to avoid sexual activity, including masturbation, for 2–5 days before the sample is collected. This will help make sure your sperm count is at its highest level.

Are there any risks to the test?

There is no known risk to a semen analysis.

What do the results mean?

The results of a semen analysis include measurements of quantity and quality of semen and sperm. These include:

  • Volume: the amount of semen
  • Sperm count: the number of sperm per milliliter
  • Sperm movement, also known as motility
  • Sperm shape, also known as morphology
  • White blood cells, which may be a sign of an infection

If any of these results are not normal, it may mean there is problem with your fertility. But other factors, including the use of alcohol, tobacco, and some herbal medicines, can affect your results. If you have questions about your results or other concerns about your fertility, talk to your health care provider.

If your semen analysis was done to check the success of your vasectomy, your provider will look for the presence of any sperm. If no sperm is found, you and your partner should be able to stop using other forms of birth control. If sperm is found, you may need repeat testing until your sample is clear of sperm. In the meantime, you and your partner will have to take precautions in order to prevent pregnancy.

Is there anything else I need to know about a semen analysis?

Many male fertility problems can be treated. If your semen analysis results were not normal, your health care provider may order more tests to help figure out the best approach to treatment.

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