Diabetic Test Results in Black Patients With Sickle Cell May Be Skewed

A new study says that black people with a sickle cell anemia trait may not receive accurate results from a common blood test used to diagnose diabetes. The test, called the hemoglobin A1C(HbA1C) test gives a reading that can indicate diabetes, but is sometimes skewed when thsoe with sickle cell anemia traits use it.

The test can come back with a lower score than it should when sickle cell anemia is present, the study found. This discrepancy could lead those who are diabetic to have diagnostic tests saying that they are not. This could also affect management of diabetes as the test is often used to assess where a patient stands.

Results can be off enough that some with known diabetes are shown to be below the threshold, or diabetes-free.

An A1C test with a result of 5.7 or lower is considered normal whereas a test with a result higher than that is considered diabetic or pre-diabetic. In the study, researchers compared test results for A1c tests with blood sugar levels from other tests. They found that readings could be off by as much as 0.5 when the patient was also diagnosed with a sickle cell anemia trait - a common trait in black people.

The skewed results are because of the way that the A1C test works. It measures the amount of glycation in red blood cells. Over a two- to three-month period, red blood cells can become coated in sugars when hyperglycemia (high sugar levels) are chronic. This is a good measure of diabetes.

A patient with sickle cell anemia, however, has a misshapen hemoglobin on their red blood cells, causing those cells to live only 10 to 20 days instead of 90 to 120 days as in a normal person. This skews the A1C test.

About 10 percent of the black people in the United States have sickle cell anemia.

Source: UPI.com

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