Home Blood Sugar Testing
Everyone with diabetes should test their blood glucose (blood sugar) levels regularly at home. Knowing your blood sugar levels allows you to alter your diabetes management strategy if your levels aren't near your target.
Also, regular testing of your blood sugar levels can help reduce your risk of having long-term complications from diabetes. Based on studies of people with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, maintaining your target blood sugar and HbA1c levels significantly reduces the risks of complications arising from diabetes.
Ways to Test Your Blood Sugar
- Traditional Home Blood Sugar Monitoring. The traditional method of testing your blood sugar involves pricking your finger with a lancet (a small, sharp needle), putting a drop of blood on a test strip, and then placing the strip into a meter that displays your blood sugar level. Meters vary in features, readability (with larger displays or spoken instructions for the visually impaired), portability, speed, size, and cost. Current devices provide results in less than 15 seconds and can store this information for future use. Some of these meters can also calculate an average blood sugar level over a period of time. Some meters also feature software kits that retrieve information from the meter and display graphs and charts of your past test results. Blood sugar meters and strips are available at your local pharmacy.
- Meters That Test Alternative Sites. Newer meters allow you to test sites other than your fingertip; these alternative testing sites may include upper arm, forearm, base of the thumb, and thigh. However, testing at alternative sites may give you results that are different from the blood sugar levels obtained from the fingertip. Blood sugar levels in the fingertips show changes more quickly than those in alternative testing sites. This is especially true when your blood sugar is rapidly changing, like after a meal or after exercise. It is also important to know that if you are checking your sugar at an alternative site while you are experiencing symptoms of hypoglycemia, you should not rely on these test results.
- Continuous Glucose Monitoring System. Also known as interstitial glucose measuring devices. Some of these devices are combined with insulin pumps. They are not as accurate as fingerstick glucose results but can be used to see patterns and trends.
Newer technologies are now being studied using spectroscopy and electromagnetic waves as ways to test blood sugar levels without piercing the skin.
When Should I Test My Blood Sugar?
If you have diabetes, whether you are on insulin, oral medication, or lifestyle modifications, you can still benefit from checking your blood sugar levels at home.
For people who take multiple insulin injections daily or who use an insulin pump, experts recommend checking the blood sugar level at least three times daily.
Frequency and timing of blood sugar measurements should be individualized. Your health care provider will tell you when and how often you should check your blood sugar.