Glycemic Variability: How Do We Measure It and Why Is It Important?

Diabetes Metab J. 2015 Aug;39(4):273-82. doi: 10.4093/dmj.2015.39.4.273.


Chronic hyperglycemia is the primary risk factor for the development of complications in diabetes mellitus (DM); however, it is believed that frequent or large glucose fluctuations may independently contribute to diabetes-related complications. Postprandial spikes in blood glucose, as well as hypoglycemic events, are blamed for increased cardiovascular events in DM. Glycemic variability (GV) includes both of these events; hence, minimizing GV can prevent future cardiovascular events. Correcting GV emerges as a target to be pursued in clinical practice to safely reduce the mean blood glucose and to determine its direct effects on vascular complications in diabetes. Modern diabetes management modalities, including glucagon-related peptide-1-based therapy, newer insulins, modern insulin pumps and bariatric surgery, significantly reduce GV. However, defining GV remains a challenge primarily due to the difficulty of measuring it and the lack of consensus regarding the optimal approach for its management. The purpose of this manuscript was not only to review the most recent evidence on GV but also to help readers better understand the available measurement options and how the various definitions relate differently to the development of diabetic complications.

Keywords: Diabetes complications; Diabetes mellitus; Glycemic variability.

Publication types

  • Review