Monitoring Blood Sugar at Home

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Monitoring Blood Sugar at Home

Diabetes Type 2
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Monitoring Blood Sugar at Home
Monitoring Blood Sugar at Home
Testing your glucose at home can help you keep track of blood-sugar control. Here's what you need to know about testing frequency and equipment.
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Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Monitoring Blood Sugar at Home


Who should check blood sugar at home?
Having a home blood-glucose monitor is beneficial for anyone with diabetes. That's because it can help you be more aware of your blood-sugar control. Some people with type 2 diabetes are able to manage their diabetes with diet and exercise. They do not need to check blood sugar at home on a frequent basis.
Regular home checks of blood sugar are important for people with type 2 diabetes who:
  • Use insulin
  • Take pills for diabetes that can lead to low blood sugar, especially pancreas stimulators such as sulfonylureas, or the medicines repaglinide or nateglinide
  • Have a hard time managing blood sugar levels (people who may need to change or add medicines)
  • Sometimes have low blood sugar levels without the usual warning signs
  • Intend to maintain tight blood sugar control
  • Are going through a significant illness in addition to diabetes
  • Are pregnant
How frequently should you test blood sugar?
How often you should test depends upon your situation. For some people, testing once each morning for a few days before each doctor's visit may be enough. For other people, tests two or more times daily may be needed to help adjust medicine doses. Or you may need a nighttime test reading to troubleshoot problems of glucose ups and downs. Your doctor can help determine a practical testing schedule for your needs.
Consider keeping a calendar or graph with your glucose recordings. These numbers can help your doctor advise you about adjustments in treatment plans or goals.
Who should check A1C levels at home?
A home monitoring device is available to measure hemoglobin A1C in your blood. The A1C is one of the most important tests for diabetics. That's because it provides a summary of your sugar control during the last two to three months.
The A1C changes gradually. Testing soon after a medicine adjustment may not fully show how your body responds. A home A1C monitor can provide you with one more way to personally monitor your sugar control. However, it can't replace regular visits to your doctor. Since your doctor can easily measure your A1C at office visits, it's up to you whether you want to buy a home monitor as well.
Which testing devices are the best?
The most established way to test your blood sugar is with a blood glucose meter. It's also called "glucometer." This machine measures the glucose in one or two drops of your blood. Many brands of glucose meters are available. Some provide special functions such as electronic memory to record the times and results of your glucose tests.

A1C monitors are also available for home use, but this measurement is not as important to monitor from day to day. It changes much more slowly than glucose. Most patients opt to get their A1C checks in their doctor's office lab.

Many medical offices are able to download stored information from glucometers. This allows your doctor to easily review your numbers. In some cases, they can be printed on a graphic flowsheet.

To use a blood glucose meter or A1C monitor, you will need to produce a fresh blood sample for each reading. This usually comes from a finger prick. You will need to wash and completely dry your hands before each test to make sure it's accurate.
The tool that is most often used to quickly prick your finger is called a lancet. Most lancets fit into spring-loaded devices. You also can buy laser devices that pierce the skin without a needle or blade. They are a more expensive option and therefore are less frequently used.
How do I know my home monitor is accurate?
You can test the accuracy of any home meter. To do this, check its results against a blood test done by your doctor's laboratory. You will need to bring your machine in to the laboratory. This will allow you to use the home meter at nearly the same time your blood is drawn for the lab test.
Your blood glucose machine most likely reports the glucose in whole blood. This also is true for any machine in your doctor's office that reads a blood sample directly from a finger prick. Laboratory tests use a tube of blood. They usually measure glucose in your plasma. That's the liquid part of blood remaining after cells are removed by a centrifuge machine. An accurate whole-blood reading (glucose-meter reading) is usually 10% to 15% lower than a plasma-glucose measurement that is obtained near the same time.
Are there other ways to test sugar at home?
Urine tests for sugar are not as accurate as blood tests. They are not recommended for most type 2 diabetics.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a device resembling a watch that can measure the glucose in sweat. It estimates your blood sugar based upon your sweat-sugar level. This device is not a substitute for a blood-glucose monitor. It may be useful in some cases, however. It may provide information on when you have sugar highs and lows. It is an expensive device and it requires a doctor's prescription.
Continuous glucose meters that are implanted in the abdomen are available. They are not often used for people with type 2 diabetes.




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Last updated October 28, 2013

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