Measuring blood glucose periodically is critical for staying off the blood sugar rollercoaster. But how can a clinician be sure a patient hasn't gotten on board the rollercoaster? This is when glyosylated hemoglobin comes into the picture.
What happens is that when a person is diabetic and doesn't adequately control blood glucose, her or his blood glucose becomes elevated. The hyperglycemia that results begins to affect certain proteins in the blood as well as hemoglobin. Blood glucose bonds to the hemoglobin and it becomes "glycosylated". The glycosylation mainly happens to hemoglobin A (HbA, the major form of hemoglobin, and it's pretty much irreversible.
After a few weeks, the amount of glycosylated hemoglobin will decline, but only if blood sugar is controlled. If it's not controlled, then a physician can order a glycosylated HbAIC test, or AIC test. A person without diabetes should have about 4-8% HbAIC and the American Diabetes recommends diabetics to stay below at least 7%. The glycosylated hemoglobin test is meant to evaluate how well treatment is going and how well a patient is following recommendations. It also serves as a method to individualize programs, compare therapys, differentiate short-term hyperglycemia in nondiabetics and diabetics, and also to offer as a reward for patients who do well in their control.
Lee, R.D. & Nieman, D.C. Nutritional Assessment, 4th ed. McGraw Hill Higher Education. Boston, 2007, p. 307.
Pagana, K.D., Pagana, T.J. Mostby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 3rd ed. Mosby Elsvier, 2006, p. 282.