Nearly 24 million Americans are living with diabetes, and every year their ranks increase by as many as 1.6 million new cases, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). But, thanks to new technology, people are getting diagnosed after a finger-stick blood test right in the doctor’s office. That means diabetes specialists can more quickly steer their patients toward the healthier lifestyles that will stave off future complications of the disease.
Deborah Murray, M.D., director of the NorthBay Center for Endocrinology and Diabetes in Vacaville, now uses that in-office blood test to determine a patient’s average blood glucose level over the past three months. Called a Hemoglobin A1C test, it can detect diabetes as well as pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels are high but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.
Previously, patients would have to fast for eight hours (for a fasting plasma glucose test), or undergo multiple blood samples taken for several hours, for the Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT). The A1C test not only provides a quick determination of historic blood glucose levels, but it is convenient. And it has recently been recommended by the ADA as a tool for diagnosing diabetes and pre-diabetes.
There are certain conditions where the A1C should not be the only diagnostic tool, according to the ADA. These would be for pregnant women, people with chronic kidney or liver disease, those who have recently had a blood transfusion, or those with blood disorders, such as iron-deficiency anemia.
The NorthBay Center for Endocrinology and Diabetes offers a complete team approach to helping patients manage their diabetes. Not only is Dr. Murray board-certified in endocrinology, but the center offers a fully certified diabetes education process, as well as intensive interventions for patients needing frequent attention, such as those who are newly diagnosed, who are pre- and post-bariatric surgical candidates or on cancer chemotherapy.
New A1C Guidelines
Diabetes: A1C level is 6.5 percent or higher
Pre-diabetes (increased risk of developing diabetes
in the future): A1C is 5.7 percent to 6.4 percent*
*In this range, the higher the percentage, the higher your risk for developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Those over 6.0 percent (very high risk) need intensive interventions and vigilant follow-up, according to the ADA.
Collette DaCruz, R.N., certified diabetes educator, also notes the center has access to some of the newest tools. “We can use a Continuous Glucose Monitor to determine a patient’s glucose values over the course of 72 hours. The device measures the blood glucose about every five seconds. It is about the size of a quarter and placed just under the skin of the patient. The patient comes back in three days, and the results are read. It’s helpful for those with wide fluctuations in blood glucose or unexplained variations that might not be captured with a glucometer, such as frequent low blood glucose in the middle of the night.”
And, for those diabetics who use an insulin pump to continuously deliver rapid-acting insulin, there are new devices available to make life a little easier, DaCruz notes. Some are waterproof, so that a patient may go swimming. Others link to a glucometer, or have devices that can control the insulin pump from an external device, such as a Palm Pilot. “Once we determine that an insulin pump is the right option for a patient, we work closely to find the one that best meets that individual’s needs.”
NorthBay Diabetes Education Program Earns Accreditation
The NorthBay Center for Endocrinology and Diabetes is nationally certified by the American Diabetes Association and the American Association of Diabetes Educators to teach Diabetes Self-Management Training, according to Collette DaCruz, R.N. “These certifications ensure that the program meets national standards, assuring educators have the latest information on diabetes care and education.”
The NorthBay program includes individual and group classes that cover the following:
- Healthy eating
- Overview of diabetes
- Importance of monitoring medications
- Acute complications
- Long-term complications
- Goal-setting and follow-up support
- Reducing risks
- Healthy coping