Self Blood Glucose Testing
The Importance of Self Blood Glucose Testing
Many caregivers have primary responsibility for the day-to-day diabetes care of a loved one. Self-monitoring of blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels through home testing is a fundamental tool of diabetes management that everyone with diabetes in their life should know about. Even if the person you care for is capable of checking their own blood sugar, it's important to know the basics of self-testing in order to provide them with the best possible care and support.
Why self-test blood glucose levels?
Testing enables people with diabetes to see how certain foods, activities, and situations may impact their blood glucose levels. And the data from testing can help the diabetes care team evaluate how effective, or ineffective, a new treatment routine or change in medication is for your loved one. For people who take insulin, self-testing allows for more accurate dosage adjustments.
When should we test?
The ADA suggests that people with type 1 diabetes and pregnant women taking insulin test their blood glucose levels at least four times a day. People with type 2 diabetes who take multiple injections of insulin daily should also test three or more times daily. There is no official recommendation for daily testing frequency for those with type 2 diabetes who are on less frequent insulin injections, oral medication, or who control their diabetes through diet and exercise only; however the ADA does state that testing should be frequent enough to achieve blood glucose goals, and both type 1 and type 2 patients should test more often when their treatment regimen is adjusted.
What kind of blood glucose monitor?
There are a wide variety of blood glucose monitors to choose from, from stripped down single-reading meters to models with computer compatibility, alarms, and backlights. Think about the functions that are important to you and your loved one. For example, if you like to track trend data, a meter that has extensive memory may be for you. If the person you care for has vision impairments, you may prefer a large display, or an adaptive meter with voice reading capabilities. A certified diabetes educator or pharmacist is a good source of information on what blood glucose monitor may be right for you.
Most meters on the market today read blood plasma, the same standard that is used in a clinical setting (many older meters provide whole blood readings). Consider the following features when deciding on a blood glucose monitor:
Blood sample size. Does the meter require a minimal amount of blood?
Alternative site testing. Some meters allow you to test blood samples from the forearm and other sites beyond the fingertips.
Cost. Factor in the cost of test strips when evaluating your meter purchase.
Multitasking. Some blood glucose monitors double as blood ketone testers or offer inegrated lancet devices. Others are designed to transmit testing information to an insulin pump.
Adaptive technology. If you have vision impairments, you may need a meter that "speaks" your results.
Bells and whistles. Glow-in-the-dark cases, backlighting, and swappable faceplates are just a few of the other features today's blood glucose meters can offer.
What other supplies do you need?
All meters require test strips to operate—a small chemically treated strip that slides into the meter. After insertion, a drop of blood is placed on the opposite end of the strip that protrudes from the meter, and the meter reads the glucose level and displays the number on the screen.
Some monitors use test strip drums or discs, which are self-enclosed packages of strips that automatically load without user intervention or handling. Small children and adults who have difficulties with their fine motor skills may find this type of monitor easier to use.
You'll also need a lancet (a small, fine needle) to get a blood sample for testing. Lancets are inserted into a lancet device—a spring-loaded mechanism about the size and shape of a pen. A dial allows the user to adjust the depth of the lancet stick. Typically there is a button that you push to release the lancet into a fingertip or other site to draw a blood sample. Lancets come in different gauges; the higher the gauge, the finer (i.e., thinner) the needle. Higher gauge needles are less painful, but they also may create a smaller blood sample.
Your blood glucose monitor may also come with control solution (for calibrating the monitor per manufacturer's directions for use) and a carrying case.
Reviewed by Francine Kaufman, MD.
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