September 28, 2011

Terms Used for Diabetes

If you get nothing else from this blog, I want you to get in the habit of asking for a copy of your lab test results and make sure that you get a copy before leaving the doctor's office. The good news is that if the current proposal David Mendosa wrote about in his blog here goes into effect, we will have the right to receive them from the lab even before our appointment. Some do receive them this way now, but for many access has been denied until the doctor receives them and gives you a copy. Even then many doctors have been reluctant to give patients copies of their lab reports.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), Public Law 104-191 (HIPAA) is one area you should spend to time becoming familiar with as this spells out your rights to your medical records. Use this link to assist in your learning and follow other links on the page and page two. This site will be helpful as well. There are other sites so use your search engine. I have not been through the entire act.

This site will help US citizens in learning what their legal rights are to obtain copies of their medical records and this site will provide information about what procedures to follow if you are refused rights to you medical records - there are five pages.

You may not know what all the results mean, but you are capable of learning. Most, but not all lab reports will be divided into three columns. The first column is normally name of the test or event to be measured, the second column is usually the test results and may or may not include the letters L for low or H for high. The last column is normally the reference range for the test or what is considered normal.

Then you can take your lab report and go to this web site to do some learning. Be sure to explore as more than diabetes is covered on this site. I have given you the direct link to understanding the diabetes part and you may explore on your own. Be careful in thinking all labs are alike in their reference ranges – they can differ depending on the test analysis used. Also, very few tests are standardized nationally so lab results will vary.

Example: Blood glucose – reference range for the lab my doctor uses is 70 to 110 mg/dl. The mg means milligrams and the dl means deciliter, so mg/dl is milligrams per deciliter. The USA is the only country that uses this. The rest of the world uses millimoles per liter (mmol/L). This site has many terms and explanations of them and this site may also be helpful. There are many sites that have conversion calculations, but I do like this site and click on G for glucose.

Sometimes it is not necessary to know the technical meaning so much as knowing the acronym definition. HbA1c (A1c) is glycated hemoglobin (further definition is found here) measurement for approximately the last three months. The result is somewhat weighted in favor of the last month (ideally the cells would have the same life span) as the cells in the blood die off at random and new are always being created.

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