Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) is currently the most commonly used marker for the determination of the glycemic status in people with diabetes and it is frequently used to guide therapy and especially medical treatment of people with diabetes. The measurement of HbA1c has reached a high level of analytical quality and, therefore, this biomarker is currently also suggested to be used for the diagnosis of diabetes. Nevertheless, it is crucial for people with diabetes and their treating physicians to be aware of possible interferences during its measurement as well as physiological or pathological factors that contribute to the HbA1c concentration without being related to glycemia, which are discussed in this review. We performed a comprehensive review of the literature based on PubMed searches on HbA1c in the treatment and diagnosis of diabetes including its most relevant limitations, glycemic variability and self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG). Although the high analytical quality of the HbA1c test is widely acknowledged, the clinical relevance of this marker regarding risk reduction of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality is still under debate. In this respect, we argue that glycemic variability as a further risk factor should deserve more attention in the treatment of diabetes.
Keywords: Hemoglobin A1C; diabetes complications.; diabetes mellitus; glycemic control; glycemic variability; hemoglobinopathies.