If you have diabetes, it is important to monitor your glucose levels regularly. A glucometer makes this process easy to do. These are portable devices that use a small sample of blood to tell you what your blood sugar levels are at that specific time. Since glucose meters test in real time, this helps you to make better decisions regarding what you are eating and how to dose your insulin, if you take this medication.
THE IMPORTANCE OF REGULAR BLOOD SUGAR TESTING
It is important to keep your blood sugar levels within a healthy range at all times. Since diabetes can make this difficult, regularly testing your blood sugar can help you to make the right choices to ensure adequate control. The following are reasons why you need to test your blood glucose levels according to the schedule that your doctor recommends:
- It helps you to assess your diabetes treatment regimen to make sure that it is working for you
- You will be able to determine how stress, illness and other factors are affecting your blood sugar levels
- It makes it easier to see when your glucose levels are too high or low so that you can take the proper corrective measures
- You will know how your exercise regimen and diet are affecting your blood sugar levels
- It helps you to assess how your medications are working to help you to keep your diabetes under control so that you will know if changes need to be made
HOW OFTEN TO TEST YOUR BLOOD SUGAR
How often you need to test your blood sugar levels is highly individualized. It will also depend on the type of diabetes you have and if you are going through a period with new treatments or your sugar levels fluctuating a lot. You should talk to your doctor regularly and always make sure that you are testing often enough to keep your sugar levels as controlled as possible.
If you have Type 2 diabetes and do not need any insulin, testing one to two times a day is often recommended. However, if you have good control over your levels, your doctor may not need you to check daily. Should you be using insulin for this condition, testing three or four times a day is often suggested, especially if your insulin dose is dependent on your blood sugar levels throughout the day.
If you have Type 1 diabetes, it is common to test your blood sugar levels four to 10 times daily. In most cases, you will be testing before you go to sleep, around your mealtimes and around the times that you exercise. Your doctor will provide you with detailed instructions regarding when to check your sugar and how your levels at each check will impact your diet and insulin intake at that time.
HOW DOES A GLUCOMETER WORK?
When you use a glucometer, you provide it with a small sample of blood, most often from one of your fingertips. To get the meter to read the blood sample, the sample goes onto a diabetic test strip. This strip goes into a small port at the bottom of your glucose meter. It is important to make sure that you have the strip properly inserted into your glucometer so that your results will be accurate.
Inside the test strip are different chemicals. Your blood will react with these to help to make your blood readable to the glucometer. Electrical currents go through the test strip from your monitor showing you a reading that is your blood sugar level. On average, a glucose monitor works within seconds to give you a reading. In most cases, this process takes under 30 seconds so that you can have a quick, real-time reading of your glucose levels.
ALTERNATIVE SITE VS. FINGER BLOOD TESTING
In some cases, obtaining your blood sample from one of your fingertips might not be possible. When this happens, your doctor might recommend a blood sugar meter that can use a sample from another area on your body, such as your thigh or the palm on your hand. Just make sure that when you obtain a sample from an alternative site that it is a site on your body that is approved in the specifications of your blood sugar monitor and the associated test strips.
You might consider an alternative site meter if you have been checking your blood sugar for a long time and your fingers get sore easily. In some cases, it can be difficult for people to obtain a blood sample from their fingertips. Without a proper blood sample, you may get an inaccurate reading or no reading at all. Because of this, obtaining a viable sample from elsewhere on your body can ensure accurate monitoring of your blood sugar levels.
Compared to a fingertip blood sample, blood from an alternative testing site may not be as accurate. It is important to consider this, especially if your blood sugar has been falling or rising often or quickly recently. Even if your glucometer allows for alternative testing sites, you can still usually obtain a blood sample from a fingertip. If you think your sugar levels will be especially high or low, it can be best to use your fingertip during these times when possible, as long as your sample size is adequate.
WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A GLUCOMETER
The glucose monitor that you use needs to be one that you always have access to. It is important to not only consider the blood sugar meter, but also the strips and lancet that work with it. There are several factors to keep in mind in order to make sure that you are making the right choice, including:
- Call your health insurance company and determine how much they will cover for your monitor. You also need to know about the glucose test strips they will cover and how many they will cover during each month.
- If you have impaired vision, you might want to consider a meter that audibly tells you what your blood sugar reading is. There are also blood sugar meters with extra-large screens and buttons that are easier to see if you have issues with your vision.
- A meter that is easy to maintain guarantees that you always have it ready to use. Talk to your pharmacist to learn more about the meters that require little maintenance and calibration. This is important because with regular maintenance, you will know that you are getting the most accurate results when you are testing your blood sugar levels.
- Information retrieval and storage is another important consideration. It is good to track your glucose levels over the long-term. When your meter is able to store your information, you can go back and see how your blood sugar levels have been over the course of a month or more, depending on the storage capacity of your meter.
- Know the blood sample size that your meter and test strips require. Some require more or less blood than others. If you have difficulty getting a bigger sample regularly, consider a meter that requires less blood to provide you with an accurate result.
A glucometer is one of the most important tools that a diabetic has in their arsenal. It lets you assess your blood sugar at any time of the day so that you can take control over your health. What is important is that you pick one that you can use easily and that you can afford, that way you will always have your glucose meter with you and ready to use.