Home Blood Sugar Testing

Everyone with diabetes should test their blood sugar (glucose) levels regularly. Knowing the results lets you tweak your strategy for keeping the disease in check, as needed.

Regular testing can also help you avoid getting long-term health problems that can stem from the condition. Research shows that in people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, sticking to your target blood sugar and HbA1c levels makes complications less likely.

Ways to Test Your Blood Sugar

1. Traditional Home Glucose Monitoring

You prick your finger with a lancet (a small, sharp needle), put a drop of blood on a test strip, and then place the strip into a meter that displays your blood sugar levels.

Meters vary in features, portability, speed, size, cost, and readability (with larger displays or spoken instructions if you have vision problems). Devices deliver results in less than 15 seconds and store this information for future use.

Some meters also calculate an average blood sugar level over a span of time. Some also feature software kits that take 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.

2. Meters That Test Other Parts of Your Body.

Some devices let you test you upper arm, forearm, base of the thumb, and thigh.

These results may differ from the blood sugar levels gotten from a fingertip stick. Levels in the fingertips show changes more quickly. This is especially true when your sugar is changing fast, like after a meal or after exercise.

If you have symptoms of low blood sugar, don’t rely on test results from other parts of your body.

3. Continuous Glucose Monitoring System

Some of these devices are combined with insulin pumps. They're not as accurate as finger-stick glucose results. But they can help you find patterns and trends in your sugar levels. You may also hear doctors call these “interstitial glucose measuring devices.”

When Should I Test My Blood Sugar?

Each person is different. Your doctor will tell you when and how often you should check your levels.

If you use insulin more than once a day or use an insulin pump, experts recommend checking your blood sugar at least three times daily.

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What Can Affect My Results?

They may not be accurate if you have anemia or gout. If it’s hot, humid, or you’re at high altitude, that can interfere with the results, too. So can vitamin C.  

If you consistently see results that aren’t expected, recalibrate your meter and check the strips.

The chart below shows you the ideal blood sugar ranges for most adults, except for pregnant women. Your ideal range may be different from another person's and will change throughout the day, so check with your doctor for your targets.

Time of Test

Ideal for Adults With Diabetes

Before a meal

70-130 mg/dL

1 to 2 hours after beginning a meal

Less than 180 mg/dL

Source: American Diabetes Association, 2014

 

Home Blood Sugar Monitoring and HbA1c

Checking your HbA1c level is also important. Many home glucose monitors can display an average blood sugar reading, which correlates to the HbA1c test.

Average Blood Glucose Level (mg/dL)

HbA1c (%)

125mg/dL

6

154mg/dL

7

183mg/dL

8

212mg/dL

9

240mg/dL

10

269mg/dL

11

298mg/ dl

12

 

When Should I Call My Doctor?

Ask your doctor about your target blood sugar range. Also, work together to draw up a plan for how to handle blood sugar readings that are either too high or too low and when to call your doctor. Learn about the warning signs of high or low blood sugar and know what you can do if you begin to have symptoms.

Track It Over Time

Keep records of all your test results. Most glucose monitors also have memory for that. Your records can alert you to any problems or trends. 

Also, these test records help your doctor make any needed changes in your meal plan, medicine, or exercise program. Bring these records with you to every checkup.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on December 14, 2016

Sources

SOURCES: 

American Diabetes Association: "Choosing a Blood Glucose Meter." 

American Diabetes Association: "Standards of Medial Care in Diabetes -- 2014."

American Diabetes Association: A1C and eAG

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