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Diabetes in Adults

How Is Blood Sugar Monitored?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 17:54

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Keeping track of your blood sugar levels makes your diabetes easier to manage and helps you keep an eye on your condition.

  • Blood sugar that is too high (hyperglycemia) can make you feel sick. You may urinate frequently, become thirsty, have blurring of vision and may get skin infections, eg, boils. And if it stays high for long, it can cause problems with your eyes, feet and kidneys.
  • Blood sugar that is too low (hypoglycemia) can make you feel sick too. You may sweat, feel very hungry, weak and anxious, feel your heart pounding in your chest. You may not be able to think clearly and even pass out.

If you are taking insulin,you should test your blood at least twice a day, usually before a meal. Some people take only one injection of insulin a day before going to bed. In that case, testing your blood only once a day before breakfast is necessary.

  • When you are sick.
  • When you are starting a new medicine, and need to see how well it is working.
  • If you get symptoms of low blood sugar.

About Glucose Meters

You can buy inexpensive meters that tell you how much sugar is in your blood. With most, after you prick your finger with a special lancet, you put a drop of blood on a test strip for the meter to read. Glucose meters also store the results of tests, with the date.

There are more than 25 different types of meters on the market. They differ in these ways:

  • Amount of blood needed for test
  • Testing speed
  • Overall size
  • Ability to store test results in memory
  • Cost

Newer types of meters are generally easier to use and have more features, such as the ability to store results or print them out. "Noninvasive" models are also available that don't require a finger stick.

Nice To Know:

When using a lancet to prick your finger, try to get a good drop of blood from the side of your finger. The side has a good blood supply, but is less sensitive than the tip.

Even if you have a meter that stores numbers, note the time and the blood sugar number in a logbook. Then you won't lose your data if the meter goes wrong or its battery dies. Also,it will be easier for your doctor to analyze the results written in a log book than to have to scroll through the results that are stored in the meter. Be sure to have spare batteries on hand, just in case.

How-To Information:

Glucose Meter Use

Each meter has a different set of instructions. With some meters, get a good drop of blood, put it on a test strip, insert the test strip into the meter, and read off the result. With other meters, insert the strip into the meter before you place the drop of blood on the test strip. In both cases,you will get an exact figure.

Need To Know:

"Normal" blood sugar is between 70 and 110 (before meals) up to 140 (soon after meals). Your diabetes team will tell you how close to those numbers your readings should be.

The Hemoglobin A1C Test

About once every three months, you will need a blood test that shows how well you have been controlling your blood sugar over the long term. The hemoglobin A1C test measures the amount of sugar that has stuck to the red blood cells. It reflects the average blood sugar over the past two to three months.

Diabetes in Adults