How to Test Your Blood Sugar With Diabetes

Brian King2/22/14

If you have diabetes, your doctor may recommend that you test your blood sugar, or glucose, levels regularly. Knowing your blood sugar levels may allow you to alter your diabetes management strategy if your levels aren't near your target blood sugar.

Also, regular testing of your blood sugar can help reduce your risk of having long-term complications from diabetes. Based on studies of people with type 1 diabetes, maintaining near normal blood sugar and HbA1c levels significantly reduces the risks of complications from diabetes. But this type of tight control is not for everyone. Your doctor can tell you which diabetes treatment goals are right for you.

Ways to Test Your Blood Sugar With Diabetes

Traditional Home Blood Sugar Monitoring. The traditional method of testing your blood sugar involves pricking your finger with a lancet (a small, sharp needle), putting a drop of blood on a test strip and then placing the strip into a meter that displays your blood sugar level. Meters vary in features, readability (with larger displays or spoken instructions for the visually impaired), portability, speed, size, and cost. Current devices provide results in less than 15 seconds and can store this information for future use. Some of these meters can also calculate an average blood sugar level over a period of time. Some meters also feature software kits that retrieve information from the meter and display graphs and charts of your past test results. Blood sugar meters and strips are available at your local pharmacy.

Meters That Test Alternative Sites. Newer meters may allow you to test sites other than your fingertip; these alternative testing sites may include upper arm, forearm, base of the thumb, and thigh. However, testing at alternative sites may give you results that are different from the blood sugar levels obtained from the fingertip. Blood sugar levels in the fingertips show changes more quickly than those in alternative testing sites. This is especially true when your blood sugar is rapidly changing, like after a meal or after exercise. It is also important to know that if you are checking your sugar while you are experiencing symptoms of hypoglycemia, you should use your fingertip if possible, because these readings will be more accurate.

Continuous Glucose Monitoring System. Also known as interstitial glucose measuring devices. Some of these devices are combined with insulin pumps. They are similar to fingerstick glucose results and can be used to see patterns and trends.

Newer technologies are now being studied using spectroscopy and electromagnetic waves as ways to test blood sugar levels without piercing the skin.

When Should I Test My Blood Sugar?

If you have diabetes, whether you are on insulin, oral medication, or lifestyle modifications, you may still benefit from checking your blood sugar levels at home. Ask your doctor if checking your levels at home is right for you.

For people who take multiple insulin injections daily or who use an insulin pump, experts recommend checking the blood sugar level several times a day. Suggested times may include before meals, before exercise, at bedtime, before tasks like driving, as well as when low blood sugar levels are suspected.

Frequency and timing of blood sugar measurements should be individualized. Your health care provider will tell you when and how often you should check your blood sugar.

Note: Acute or chronic illnesses or changes in medications may affect your blood sugar level. You may need to test your blood sugar more frequently when you are ill.

Conditions That Affect Your Blood Sugar

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

  • Anemia
  • Gout
  • High air temperature
  • Humidity
  • Altitude

If you are consistently seeing abnormal results, recalibrate your meter and check the strips.

The chart below gives you an idea of where your blood sugar level should be throughout the day. Your ideal blood sugar range may be different from another person's and will change throughout the day.
Time of Test Ideal for Adults With Diabetes
Before meals 70-130 mg/dL
After meals Less than 180 mg/dL
*Source: American Diabetes Association, 2013

Home Blood Glucose Monitoring and HbA1c

Monitoring your HbA1c level is also important for diabetes control. Many home glucose monitors have the capacity to display an average blood glucose reading, which correlates with the HbA1c.

Learn more about HbA1c.

Average Blood Glucose Level (mg/dL) HbA1c (%)
126mg/ dL 6
154mg/ dL 7
183mg/ dL 8
212mg/ dL 9
240mg/ dL 10
269mg/ dL 11
298mg/ dl 12

When Should I Call My Doctor About my Blood Sugar?

Ask your doctor about your target blood sugar range, and draw up a plan for how to handle blood sugar readings that are either too high or too low and when to call your doctor. Learn about the symptoms of high or low blood sugar and know what you can do if you begin to have symptoms.

How Do I Record My Blood Sugar Test Results?

Keep good records of any blood, urine, or ketone tests you do. Most glucose monitors also have a memory. Your records can help alert you to any problems or trends. Also, these test records help your health care provider make any needed changes in your meal plan, medicine, or exercise program. Bring these records with you every time you visit your health care provider.

Watch the youtube video from Habibi's Home Medical  about how to use your prodigy autocode blood glucose meter