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Blood sugar testing: Why, when and how
How to test your blood sugar
Blood sugar testing requires the use of an electronic device called a glucose meter. The meter reads the amount of sugar in a small sample of blood, usually from your finger, that you place on a disposable test strip. Your doctor or diabetes educator can recommend an appropriate device for you.
Your doctor or diabetes educator can also help you learn how to use a meter. He or she may occasionally ask you to demonstrate how you test your blood sugar to ensure you're using the device properly.
Follow the instructions that come with your glucose meter. In general, here's how the process works:
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water. Dry them well.
- Remove a test strip from the container and replace the cap to prevent damage to the strips.
- Insert the test strip into the meter.
- Prick your finger with the needle (lancet) provided with your test kit. Prick the side of your finger, rather than the tip, so that you won't have sore spots on the part of the finger you use the most.
- Gently squeeze or massage your finger until a drop of blood forms.
- Touch the test strip to the blood, but not your skin.
- The meter will display your blood glucose level on a screen.
Recording your results
Each time you perform a blood test, log your results in a notebook or journal. Record the date, time, test results, medication and dosage, and diet and exercise information. The American Diabetes Association provides a printable form on their web site for logging information, and there are mobile-device applications for tracking blood sugar readings.
Bring your record of results with you to all appointments with your doctor. Talk to your doctor about what to do and when to call when you get results that don't fall within the normal range of your target goals.
Avoiding problems with meter usage
Blood sugar meters need to be used and maintained properly. Follow these tips to ensure proper usage:
- Follow the instructions in the user manual for your device, as procedures may vary from one device to another.
- Use a blood sample size as directed in the manual because different meters require different sample sizes.
- Change batteries as recommended by the manufacturer.
- Use only test strips designed for your meter because not all devices and strips are compatible.
- Store test strips as directed.
- Don't use expired test strips.
- Clean the device regularly as directed.
- Run quality control tests as directed.
- Check the manual for additional troubleshooting tips.
- Bring the meter with you to doctor appointments to address any questions and to demonstrate how you use your meter.
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- Taylor JR, et al. Home monitoring of glucose and blood pressure. American Family Physician. 2007;76:255.
- American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes — 2011. Diabetes Care. 2011;34:S11.
- Checking your blood glucose. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/type-2-diabetes/blood-glucose-checks.jsp. Accessed Sept. 27, 2011.
- Diagnosis and management of type 2 diabetes mellitus in adults. Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement. http://www.icsi.org/diabetes_mellitus__type_2/management_of_type_2_diabetes_mellitus__9.html. Accessed Sept 27, 2011.
- Getting up to date on glucose meters. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm049051.htm. Accessed Sept. 27, 2011.
- McCulloch DK. Blood glucose self-monitoring in management of diabetes mellitus. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Sept. 27, 2011.
- Useful tips to increase accuracy and reduce errors in test results from glucose meters. http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/Safety/AlertsandNotices/TipsandArticlesonDeviceSafety/ucm109519.htm. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Accessed Sept. 27, 2011.
- Common problems with the use of glucose meters. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/Safety/AlertsandNotices/TipsandArticlesonDeviceSafety/ucm109449.htm. Accessed Sept. 27, 2011.