Blood sugar monitoring

Overview

Monitoring blood sugar levels is a crucial aspect of diabetes management, especially for patients with type 1 diabetes and those who take insulin. Utilizing a glucose meter with test strips, patients can measure their blood sugar at intervals discussed with their healthcare provider. This practice provides essential daily, and sometimes hourly, information necessary for effective diabetes management.

Regular blood sugar monitoring allows individuals with diabetes to assess the effectiveness of their current treatment plan. By keeping track of glucose levels, patients can make informed decisions about their diet, exercise regimen, and insulin dosage. This continuous monitoring is vital to maintaining stable blood sugar levels and preventing complications associated with diabetes.

Various factors can affect blood sugar levels, some of which are unpredictable. However, with experience, patients can learn to anticipate certain changes. Adhering to a healthcare provider’s advice to check blood sugar frequently is imperative. This practice not only helps in understanding the fluctuations in blood sugar but also aids healthcare providers in adjusting treatment plans to better manage diabetes.

Types

If you have diabetes, you can check your blood sugar at home primarily in two ways:

  • Glucose meters and test strips: Using a glucose meter and test strips is the most common method of blood sugar monitoring. This is known as a “finger stick check.”:
    • Lancet use: A lancet, a tiny needle, is used to pierce your fingertip to draw blood.
    • Testing: Place the drop of blood onto the test strip.
    • Reading: The glucose meter then displays your blood sugar level in a matter of seconds.

Since finger stick tests only record blood glucose levels at one time, diabetics—particularly those on insulin—often need to use this technique multiple times each day to monitor their blood sugar levels.

  • Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM): CGM involves wearing a device that continuously monitors your blood sugar levels, providing a comprehensive view of how your blood sugar levels fluctuate over time. Here’s a breakdown of CGM:
    • Sensor: Most CGM devices employ a small sensor that is inserted beneath your skin. The sensor measures the glucose content in your body’s interstitial fluid, which is the fluid that lies between your cells.
    • Data: CGM devices create a graph using this data. Most can notify users of low or high glucose levels via alerts or messages.
    • Reliability: CGMs can sometimes malfunction or produce erroneous results. If your CGM readings don’t match the symptoms of low or high blood sugar you’re experiencing, or if your CGM sends an error message, rely on finger stick tests for confirmation.
  • Tracking blood sugar levels
    • Glucose meters: Most allow you to store readings. You might also be able to monitor your levels with a smartphone app. If you don’t own a smartphone, record your blood sugar levels in writing along with the date, time, and any additional information, such as whether the test was taken before or after a meal.
    • CGM devices: These save your glucose level data, which will be accessible to your healthcare provider.

The choice between glucose meters and CGMs depends on several factors:

    • Access to technology: This varies depending on your medical insurance coverage and cost.
    • Type of diabetes: The type you have can influence your monitoring needs.
    • Frequency of monitoring: Advised by your healthcare provider.
    • General health status: Overall health considerations play a role in determining the best monitoring method.

Always bring your glucose meter, phone, or written record to your healthcare appointments for accurate tracking and assessment.

Reasons for undergoing the procedure

The ideal times for monitoring your blood sugar will be recommended to you by your healthcare provider. When it’s ideal to check your blood sugar, your healthcare practitioner will advise you. The experience of every individual will differ. Monitoring your blood sugar is particularly important if you exhibit signs of either elevated or decreased blood sugar.
In order to evaluate the effectiveness of your management strategy, there are also basic suggestions regarding the best times of day to check your blood sugar.

  • Low blood sugar: Blood sugar levels below 70 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) are evidence of hypoglycemia, which affects the majority of diabetics. Your body sends signals that it needs nourishment when your blood sugar is low. To treat hypoglycemia, you must eat carbohydrates, or sugar, such as an apple juice or banana. It is possible for severe hypoglycemia to be life-threatening
  • High blood sugar: Healthcare providers often classify blood sugar readings above 180 mg/dL in diabetics as high blood sugar (hyperglycemia); however, most diabetics do not experience hyperglycemia symptoms until their blood sugar level reaches 250 mg/dL or above. Monitoring blood sugar is crucial because high levels can have both immediate and long-term negative effects on health. To manage high blood sugar, it is essential to use insulin as recommended by your healthcare provider. If you experience symptoms of diabetes-related ketoacidosis (DKA), such as vomiting and exhaustion accompanied by elevated blood sugar, contact your healthcare provider immediately, as DKA is a potentially life-threatening complication that requires emergency care.
  • Blood sugar monitoring in a day: If you take insulin, there are specific times of the day that are more beneficial to check your blood sugar in order to evaluate your overall diabetes treatment strategy. Among these times are:
    • Upon waking up: This level of blood sugar is referred to as fasting glucose. If you check your blood sugar before bed, it can be extremely helpful in determining how your blood sugar is doing during the night.
    • Before meals: You can better organize your meal by taking your blood sugar before your meal. If you take insulin, it is helpful to check your dosage prior to a meal. You and your healthcare provider can better understand how food influences your blood sugar by checking before and after meals.
    • After meals: You and your healthcare provider can determine whether adjustments to your insulin or medicine dosage are necessary by monitoring your blood sugar two hours after you begin your meal. After eating, it’s normal to have elevated blood sugar, particularly if you require insulin.
    • Before and after exercise: You and your healthcare provider can evaluate the effect of exercise on your blood sugar by monitoring your blood sugar levels before and after the activity. While exercise usually decreases blood sugar, it may also increase it; therefore, monitoring your blood sugar after exercise might assist identify these types of situations.
    • Before you go to sleep: You can detect possible low or high blood sugar by taking a blood sugar check before going to bed. It can be more harmful to have low blood sugar while you’re sleeping because you might not wake up immediately from the symptoms. Since your blood sugar will probably be elevated for several hours while you sleep, going to bed with a high blood sugar often can have long-term negative effects on your health.

Risk

The following are possible risks of blood sugar monitoring:

  • Pain at pricked fingerprint: Your fingertips may become sore if you prick them often. Fortunately, there are a few things that can help ease this:
    • Make sure you prick the sides of your fingertips rather than the center. Pricking the middle of your fingertips can hurt more since there are more nerve endings there.
    • Regular lancet changes can help lessen pain in your fingers. A single lancet gets duller the more times it is used. This could worsen the pain that results from finger pricks. More recent models of lancets and lancing equipment may also assist in lessening your level of discomfort.
    • Compared to previous test strips, the newer ones take less blood. It is possible that you won’t need to prick your finger as deeply as previously required for those who have diabetes.
    • Several glucose meters let you prick your forearms or palms in addition to other body areas.

If the blood sugar monitoring is causing you to have fingertip pain, speak with your healthcare provider. They can assist you in identifying alternative tools and choices.

  • Finances: Test strips for CGM devices and blood sugar monitoring might be pricey. Speak with your healthcare provider if test strips are out of your price range. They might be able to assist you in locating options that can reduce the price of test strips.
  • Mental health: Results for blood sugar may trigger intense emotions. Feelings of frustration, confusion, anger, or upset regarding diabetes and its management are typical.

Speak with your healthcare provider or think about visiting a mental health specialist, like a psychologist or therapist, if you’re having a lot of unpleasant thoughts and feelings regarding diabetes. People who have diabetes frequently experience anxiety and/or depression.

It is important to bear in mind that blood sugar results are merely numerical values. They are neither a moral judgment nor a “grade.” Numerous factors, many of which are difficult or impossible to predict, might impact blood sugar levels. Recognize that tracking your blood sugar levels is only a method to see how effectively your present treatment regimen is functioning. It can also be quite useful for adjusting your plan.

Procedure

When using a glucose meter to measure your blood sugar, you will typically do the following:

  • Hand washing. The test result, for instance, may be affected if you have food particles on your fingers. Use an alcohol wipe on your fingertip to clean yourself if you are unable to do so with soap and water.
  • Take a test strip and insert it into your glucose meter.
  • To obtain a drop of blood, prick the side of your fingers with a lancet. If you can’t get enough blood, you might need to prick a new finger or squeeze your finger more.
  • Press and hold the test strip’s edge up against the blood drop, then watch for the results. The screen of the meter will display your blood glucose level.

There is a slight variation among all glucose meters. If you’re looking for precise instructions, always check the user manual.
Additionally, each CGM device operates in a unique way. You will receive instruction on how to use the CGM system and insert the sensor if you have one.

Outcome

Monitoring your blood sugar levels regularly is crucial in managing diabetes effectively. By doing so, you can identify patterns and understand what factors influence your blood sugar levels, such as changes in diet, insulin or medication intake, or physical activity. Since diabetes management varies from person to person, gathering data from these checks helps you and your healthcare provider make informed decisions about your treatment plan. This proactive approach not only supports a healthier lifestyle but also helps in preventing or delaying diabetes-related complications.

If you notice frequent fluctuations in your blood sugar levels or experience symptoms, it’s essential to discuss these with your healthcare provider promptly. They can recommend adjustments to your diabetes care regimen to better manage your condition. Additionally, immediate medical attention is necessary if you or someone you know shows signs of diabetes-related ketoacidosis or severe low blood sugar.