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How to test your blood sugar level with diabetes

Being able to test blood glucose levels between routine doctor's or clinic visits is often an important part of managing diabetes.

For type 1 diabetes, getting a blood glucose reading is often important for working out an insulin dose.

For type 2 diabetes, getting a glucose reading is important in tracking how well managed the condition is and helping to prevent high and low blood sugar levels.

Regular testing of your blood sugar can also help reduce the risk of long-term complications from diabetes.

Ways to test your blood sugar levels with diabetes

  • Traditional home blood glucose monitoring. The traditional method of testing your blood sugar is to prick your finger with a lancet (a very short, fine needle). You then put a drop of blood on a test strip and place the strip into a special measuring device known as a glucose meter. This then displays your blood sugar level. These meters vary in size, speed and cost. Many provide results in less than 15 seconds and can store this information for future use. They can also calculate an average blood glucose level over a period of time. Some also feature software kits that retrieve information from the meter and display graphs and charts of your past test results. Meters and test strips are available at your local pharmacy.
  • Devices that test other parts of your body. Newer devices allow you to test in areas other than your fingertips, such as your upper arm, forearm, thigh and the base of your thumb. However, this may result in different blood glucose levels from those obtained from your fingertips. Blood glucose levels in the fingertips show changes more quickly than those in other parts of the body. This is especially true when your blood glucose is rapidly changing, such as after a meal or after exercise. It is important to know that, if you are experiencing symptoms of hypoglycaemia, then checking your blood sugar levels in any area other than your fingertips is unreliable

When should I test my blood sugar level?

Blood sugar testing is usually recommended before meals, after meals and at bedtime. Daily blood glucose checks are especially important for people on insulin.

When and how often you should measure your blood sugar levels varies from person to person. Your doctor or diabetes nurse will tell you when and how often you should check your own glucose levels.

You should be aware that acute or chronic illnesses and changes in medicine may affect your glucose level. You may need to test your blood glucose more frequently when you are ill.

Conditions that affect your blood sugar

Certain conditions may interfere with an accurate reading of blood sugar. These include:

  • Anaemia
  • Gout
  • High air temperature
  • Humidity
  • Altitude
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