Glycemic variability and diabetes complications: does it matter? Simply put, there are better glycemic markers!
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There is no argument that improving mean levels of glycemic control as judged by assays for glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) reduces the risks of microvascular complications and cardiovascular disease events in patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. However, observations in some trials have suggested that targeting HbA1c to suggested targets may not always result in improved outcomes for people with long-standing type 2 diabetes. The reasons why the glycemic control strategies that primarily use HbA1c in these studies did not have predicted outcomes are not clear. Thus, controversy remains as to whether there are glycemic metrics beyond HbA1c that can be defined as effective measures that can be used in addition to HbA1c to help in assessing the risk of an individual developing diabetes complications. In this regard, the concept of "glycemic variability" (GV) is one metric that has attracted a lot of attention. GV can be simply defined as the degree to which a patient's blood glucose level fluctuates between high (peaks) and low (nadir) levels. The best and most precise way to assess GV is also one that is still debated. Thus, while there is universal agreement that HbA1c is the current gold standard for the primary clinical target, there is no consensus as to whether other proposed glycemic metrics hold promise to provide additional clinical data or whether there should be additional targets beyond HbA1c. Therefore, given the current controversy, we provide a Point-Counterpoint debate on this issue. In the preceding point narrative, Dr. Hirsch provides his argument that fluctuations in blood glucose as assessed by GV metrics are deleterious and control of GV should be a primary treatment target. In the counterpoint narrative below, Dr. Bergenstal argues that there are better markers to assess the risk of diabetes than GV and provides his consideration of other concepts.-William T. CefaluEditor in Chief, Diabetes Care.
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