Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Home Medical Monitoring Made Difficult?


WebMD Health News

March 12, 2001 -- We've all occasionally been stumped by instructions for some technical gadget, like a computer or a VCR. That's frustrating. But what if you're stumped by the instructions for a device you need to monitor your blood glucose because you're a diabetic. Well, that's dangerous, and common, according to a group of Georgia Institute of Technology researchers.

They write in a recent issue of Ergonomics in Design that inherent problems exist with both the instructions to some glucose monitors, and the monitors themselves, and that could be very harmful for someone suffering from the disease because patients must closely track their blood sugar level.

However, medical professionals specializing in treating some of the 16 million diabetics in the U.S. say the machines are so simple that even children can use them.

Regardless, a commonly used blood glucose meter that claimed to be as easy as 1-2-3 in fact required 52 sub-steps before getting to those three easy steps, according to the researchers. "A number of studies in the past have shown that people have trouble using the glucose monitors. We wanted to use human factors as a way to identify the problems and find solutions," Wendy Rogers, PhD, a Georgia Institute of Technology psychologist, tells WebMD.

Indeed, the small machines do play a crucial role in ensuring that diabetics get the proper amount of insulin, which controls blood sugar or glucose levels in their bodies. When glucose levels become too high, there can be irreparable damage to various organs in the body. Diabetes is a leading cause of heart attacks, hypertension, limb amputations, kidney failure, and stroke, and the No. 1 cause of blindness.

Rogers and her team had six people aged 20 to more than 70 try working a commonly used glucose monitor. In observing this practical test of the sugar-level meter, the researchers concluded that the device -- and both its written and video instructions -- was not sufficient to guarantee safe and accurate patient-conducted readings.

Rogers group, by analyzing the instructions with readability standards called the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level analysis, were able to determine that the user's manual for the monitor was written at an eighth-grade reading level. With this, the scientists say that about 58% of the American population would be able to understand the directions for the monitor, while only half would comprehend the instructions for the test strips (which actually determine the level of blood sugar). According to Rogers, this means that 23 million people 25 years old or older wouldn't understand these directions.

In addition to doing the six-person observational study, the researchers also surveyed 26 diabetics to find out how much trouble they experience using a glucose meter. Forty percent of these participants said they were not comfortable using one until they had used it three or four times. Most of them learned how to use the device on their own, and about a third responded that a medical professional instructed them.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Diabetic tools
Symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and more.
woman flexing muscles
10 strength training exercises.
 
Blood sugar test
12 practical tips.
Tom Hanks
Stars living with type 1 or type 2.
 
Woman serving fast food from window
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Video
 
Middle aged person
Tool
are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article