Using A1C Home Test Kits for Diabetes

How They Work, Results, and Options

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In This Article

A1c home test kits allow you to check your hemoglobin A1C levels at home, in between visits to your doctor. You can use these tests whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. A hemoglobin A1c test measures the percentage of hemoglobin bound to glucose, which is a reflection of how well your diabetes has been controlled over the past two to three months. Home A1c tests do not take the place of daily glucose testing.

How They Work

Hemoglobin A1c tests provide a reliable picture of your average blood sugar over the two to three months preceding the test. Excess blood glucose can bind to hemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells), and a high percentage of hemoglobin bound to glucose means that you have had high glucose levels. In contrast, a low percentage of hemoglobin bound to glucose means that you have had a low or normal glucose level. Red blood cells are replenished every few months, so hemoglobin A1c only reflects glucose levels for the lifespan of these cells.

Because daily glucose testing measures your blood sugar on the spot, both daily monitoring and A1c tests are needed for effective management of diabetes.

When to Use a Home Test

A home test kit may be helpful in the following circumstances:

  • You may only be required to get your A1c checked every six months, but want to get a quick read of your average blood sugar levels at the three-month mark.
  • Your care provider has asked that you get your A1c tested every three months, but you can't complete the lab work in that timeframe due to financial or scheduling circumstances.
  • You have had difficulty keeping your glucose levels under control and want to hold yourself accountable by testing at home.
  • You have pre-diabetes or a family history of diabetes and choose to self-monitor
  • You have anxiety about going to a lab and feel more comfortable testing in your home.

Remember that A1c tests should only be used every two to three months, as that is the approximate lifespan of red blood cells. Hemoglobin A1c tests can only reflect the glucose levels for that time period—otherwise, checking more frequently won't show any major changes. Use your daily glucose monitor for more regular testing.

How to Use an A1c Home Test Kit

Instructions for A1c home test kits are user-friendly. You can do the test yourself at home or you can help your child or another family member without the assistance of a medical professional. Be sure to heed the instructions closely and keep the following tips in mind:

  • Wash your hands and warm them before use. Clean hands ensure a clean sample, and warmer hands will encourage blood flow.
  • Buy your device from a reputable brand, and make sure the packaging is sealed before first use.
  • Keep your device and testing supplies at a stable temperature, away from extreme heat or cold.

The test requires a small blood sample, which is only slightly larger than the amount of blood used for a glucose meter. Depending on the type of kit you purchase, you can either get immediate results at home or you can send the sample to a lab for analysis.

Some kits can provide a reading of your A1c number in five minutes. If you are using a kit that requires sending your sample to a lab, follow the mailing instructions provided with the kit. You can expect to receive your result by mail or online in three to 10 days.

Kit Options

There are several FDA-approved home A1c test kits, and they are available at many pharmacies and online retailers. Some health insurance plans cover the cost, which can run between $50 to $150. Accessories for the test, such as replacement strips, are sold as well, so be sure to check that you have all of the necessary parts. A very inexpensive box might contain only a few replacement accessories rather than the whole testing kit.

Currently approved brands include:

  • Polymer Technology Systems
  • CVS At Home A1c Test Kit
  • ReliOn Fast A1c Test
  • Walgreens At Home A1c Test Kit
  • BIO-RAD System Analyzer Prescription Home Use
  • Bayer A1c Now SelfCheck
  • Osborn Group Hemocheck-A1c Sample Collection Kit
  • Flexsite Diagnostics, EZCheck HGB A1c Blood Collection Kit
  • HemoCue Hb 801 System

Results and Accuracy

Home A1c tests are not approved for the diagnosis of diabetes. They are only approved for the monitoring of diabetes if you have already been diagnosed.

A level above 6.5 percent or higher is generally considered to be a reflection of diabetes that is not optimally controlled. However, your doctor might set a different target for you depending on what your A1c has been in the past.

Home A1c tests have been found to be reliable, with over 90 percent correlation with A1c tests done at a lab.

However, the results of a home A1c test should not be used to make major medical decisions on your own—they should always be used in conjunction with standard medical care. Keep a log of your home testing dates and results, and share it with your doctor.

There are several factors that may affect the accuracy of home A1c tests, so discuss this with your doctor to know whether they're appropriate for you. A1c results are affected by pregnancy, rheumatoid factor, and blood disorders, such as sickle cell disease, anemia, transfusion, and blood loss.

A Word From Verywell

The American Diabetes Association recommends A1c testing twice a year if you're meeting your treatment goals and your blood glucose levels are stable, or four times a year if you're having problems managing your blood sugar.

Easy-to-use home testing for many medical conditions is becoming widely available. If you have diabetes, home A1c testing can be practical, helping you and your doctor get a strong grasp of how well your blood sugar is being managed. However, if you are not comfortable with at-home tests, don't want to check your own blood, or if you find that the instructions are complicated, you can absolutely tell your doctor that you prefer to have your A1c checked at a lab instead.

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Article Sources
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  6. American Diabetes Association A1C does it all.

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