Living With Diabetes: How to Test Blood Glucose/Blood Sugar

Testing Blood Glucose When you Have Diabetes

Living with diabetes requires checking blood glucose levels (aka blood sugar). Your doctor will likely require you to test your levels at least once per day. For people with Type 1 diabetes, more frequent testing is required so that insulin dosages can be closely tailored to food intake, exercise and more. Type 2 diabetics also need to test blood to make dietary and exercise adjustments, and to determine whether medications are effectively working to help lower glucose levels.

Home diabetes tests require use of a blood sugar meter, diabetes test strips and a lancet device. The meter itself is about the size of a small cell phone. Test strips are usually inserted, one at a time, at the top or bottom of the meter. The patient then uses the lancet to prick a finger, the heel of the hand, or forearm to draw a small bead of blood. Placing the test strip against the bead, the blood is "sucked" in, like a straw, and a measure of the amount of glucose currently in the person's bloodstream is displayed.

In the U.S., the blood sugar level is usually displayed as a measure of milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). A normal range in a non-diabetic person is approximately 80-120 mg/dL. Dangerously high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) occur over 200 mg/dL. Hypoglycemia, on the other hand, is generally defined as a level at or lower than 70 mg/dL.

Blood glucose testing supplies
Blood glucose testing supplies | Source

Diabetes Supplies for Testing Blood Glucose/Blood Sugar Levels

If you or a loved one has diabetes, your doctor may prescribe a specific type of blood glucose meter for your home use.

Meters and lancets are not usually expensive or difficult to obtain (your doctor may have a free one to provide). However, insurance companies closely count and monitor the number of diabetes test strips prescribed to you. If you have too many errors or test too frequently, you may run into issues when you go to refill your prescription! Be sure to discuss this with your doctor in advance. He or she may need to contact your insurance company directly to ensure you are provided sufficient strips for the duration of your prescription.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Diabetes test strip inserted into meter and meter ready for testBlood droplet prepared and ready to apply to diabetes test stripBlood glucose reading of 122 mg/dL - not bad for a Type 1 diabetic!
Diabetes test strip inserted into meter and meter ready for test
Diabetes test strip inserted into meter and meter ready for test | Source
Blood droplet prepared and ready to apply to diabetes test strip
Blood droplet prepared and ready to apply to diabetes test strip | Source
Blood glucose reading of 122 mg/dL - not bad for a Type 1 diabetic!
Blood glucose reading of 122 mg/dL - not bad for a Type 1 diabetic! | Source

Do you test your Blood Glucose at Home?

  • Yes, I have diabetes and must test at least daily
  • No, I do not have to monitor blood sugar
  • I might have to someday, and this article is helpful
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Tips to Effectively Check Blood Glucose/Blood Sugar Levels

  • Thoroughly wash and dry hands, preferably using warm water. You will need to remove traces of meals, dirt and bacteria before testing
  • Make sure your hands are warm enough before testing. If not, run under warm water or rub together vigorously
  • Take the meter and insert a new diabetes test strip
  • Wait for the display that indicates the meter is ready to read a drop of blood
  • Use a new lancet each time you test to prevent infection
  • Prepare the test area (usually a fingertip) with an antiseptic wipe for best results; allow to dry first
  • With the lancet, make sure that the dial is at the setting you prefer. Most are adjustable, with a light poke (level 1) to a deeper poke (level 5). Personally, I keep my lancet at a level 3 or 4. Place the lancet firmly against the skin and hold tightly while pressing the trigger
  • Place the lancet device firmly against the skin and hold in place while depressing the trigger
  • If a small droplet of blood appears, "milk" it to increase size slightly to ensure an accurate test. Place the edge of the test strip against the droplet of blood and ensure that the entire strip is "filled" for a complete test
  • If the initial application of the lancet does not draw sufficient blood, prepare a new site on a different finger or location and try again
  • Use test sites with fewer nerves than the pad of the fingertip. I use the sides of my fingers, and others have good results with the heel of their hand or forearm
  • Your meter will also be sensitive to temperature extremes. If it gets too hot or too cold, it will not function properly. Take appropriate measures to shade it during summer, or keep in a pocket during winter
  • Most blood glucose meters will display a reading (accurate to +/- 10%) within 10-20 seconds.

How to use a Blood Glucose Meter

© 2012 Stephanie Hicks

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Comments 24 comments

tsmog profile image

tsmog 4 years ago from Escondido, CA

Hi Steph. Great hub. This is better than the class I went to. And, a wonderful reminder. Don't know how it showed up at my home location :) Let me say first, I have been very lax about doing this for a bit. Shame on me. I will make you a promise. After posting this, I will check. Then go to work. And, start checking on a regular basis.

I do have a question for you. How do you handle the feelings, if you do have them (not feelings :) but regarding what is next - you know what I mean), of discouragement of having to check. I've done well up to this year. And, it has been a struggle. Any secrets? Hub referrals are OK. And, for 411, it really isn't related to depression either.

Thanking you in advance. Keep up the good work! It does count.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi tsmog, please do check for best health! My grandfather has Type 2 diabetes and his levels got very high and he became quite ill last year. Testing blood sugar as frequently as necessary can help you make adjustments for best health.

With respect to feelings associated with testing, etc., I definitely have my ups and downs. I hate that I have the disease and especially that I have to wear this insulin pump attached to my body 24/7. At times, I do consider how our modern medicine has literally saved my life. Perhaps if you think of it as taking a vitamin or eating a healthy diet - something that is necessary, but not "bad," or a sign of your failure, that will help?

Wishing you all the best! You're doing great! Steph


Catherine Kane profile image

Catherine Kane 4 years ago

This is a great hub with clear directions, but it could use some more material.

These are the standard directions. What do you if you're following these basic directions and you're not getting a successful test?

I was doing all of this, wracking up my fingers and still getting one error message after another, even w/ coaching from an experienced diabetic

Another hub on troubleshooting this when things go wrong would be a blessing


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Catherine, you need to make sure you have a large enough droplet of blood. If that does not help, then perhaps switch to a different meter. Today's models require about 1/2 the blood of those from 5-10 years ago.

Also, some fingers bleed better than others. You should also try increasing the pressure with your lancet to pierce a little deeper. The sides of your fingers, rather than the fingertips, are less painful.

I have been testing my blood for more than 10 years and I rarely get error messages. This hub is written using my own experiences, rather than "standard directions."

Best to you, Steph


BlissfulWriter profile image

BlissfulWriter 4 years ago

For type 2 diabetics, using such a meter shortly after meals and noting what was eaten, it is possible to learn and understand what types of foods causes blood sugar to rise.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Yes, BlissfulWriter, generally the best time to test after a meal is about 2 hours after eating. At that point, you can determine whether your medication is sufficient to prevent dangerous blood sugar rises. Best, Steph


tsmog profile image

tsmog 4 years ago from Escondido, CA

Hello Steph. It was 129 :) I got only two tacos instead of the normal 4 and brought a banana with me to snack later. Baby steps , , ,


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Awesome! 129 is a good reading! Keep up the great work, and definitely baby steps. :)


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

Several family members have this disease and they have to use a meter to check blood sugar levels. I can remember my sisters' difficulty with using them when they first started. This hub is great for people who have questions with beginning the process. Can the meters be washed as well? Althought, I guess the building up of blood inside doesn't cause any harmful germs to people. Great hub topic and voted up.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Teaches, good question! I have never washed my glucose meter, but I imagine that using a Q-tip and rubbing alcohol (that dries quickly) it could be done, carefully. I hope that others that are starting out with checking blood sugar levels find the hub helpful, and that those with additional questions email me through my hubpages profile. Best to you, Steph


sonnys profile image

sonnys 4 years ago from RI

My dog has diabetes and I have to check under her lip. Same numbers range, though. Cataracts are really the only thing to worry about though.


kelleyward 4 years ago

Great Hub Steph! I clean my meter with rubbing alcohol at times when I'm getting an error reading. I remember learning the hard way about why I was getting error readings. Voted this up, useful, and shared!


susanm23b 4 years ago

This is a great hub, Steph! I think that this is one of the things I love most about Hub Pages--much of the writing is done from an individual's personal experiences.

We use the Delica also. The little needle is so tiny--my daughter likes it best. She has the Omnipod so we use the Freestyle strips and test with the PDM controller that works with the Omipod. She is really good at testing and almost never gets an error. I occasionally do when I test her in the middle of the night. I have better results if I use the middle or ring finger. Also, after I press the button on the lancet device, I hold it in place on her finger tip for a second before I pull it away. I seem to get a better droplet when I do that--but I don't know why.

Excellent information here. Just like anything else that is new--each person must practice and find their own best way. But if you have diabetes, YOU MUST TEST! It is vital! I'm sure your directions and insight will help someone new to diabetes. Voted up!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks Kelley! It is so frustrating to get error messages! Best, Steph


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Susan - thanks! Yes, I seem to get better results when I hold the lancet against the skin for a second longer after pressing the button. And I definitely have fingers that bleed better than others. The fine needles are so small, there is little, if any, pain with testing. Thank you for sharing your daughter's experiences with diabetes testing. All the best, Steph


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Wow sonnys - how often do you have to test your dog's blood sugar? I have heard of diabetes in pets. That must be difficult to deal with every day. Best, Steph


Sinea Pies profile image

Sinea Pies 4 years ago from Northeastern United States

This is a great hub. Voted up and useful. My husband has diabetes and testing properly is all-important. He has been particularly challenged with meters that require calibration. He prefers to manually write down his results in a journal.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Sinea, yes, I should go back and include some information on calibration. The beauty of these meters (and the insulin pump) is that the information can be quickly downloaded at the doctor's office and he or she can then easily pinpoint trends in blood sugar levels over time. Best to you and your husband! Steph


Hubert Williams 4 years ago

Very informative article. I set mine at 3. I recently had a time that my meter broke and instead of getting another one right away I decided that I didn't need my insulin and glyburide any more either. I am glad that I am here to tell you that it was one of the most stupid decisions I have made in a long time. My glucose got so high that sugar started to spill over into my kidneys. I did not pay attention to my diet either TG's were 845. Doc was not happy. Point being, if you are a newly diagnosed diabetic the disease will not go away until you do. Pay attention to your levels. It can still be a great life. Thanks Steph, for writing this very important article.


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Hubert - you are definitely not the only one who wanted to "wish" their diabetes away! It is a high maintenance disease, but very important that we manage it, or there are serious potential consequences. Take good care, Steph


Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

thank you for a great hub.my father and my sister are diabetes ... I am so scared of getting it.. i try walking every day. and watching my diet.

Blessing to you for writing this

Debbie


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Hi Debbie, Continue to do your best with diet and exercise! Please make sure that your doctor is regularly screening you at check-ups, and if you notice any significant health changes (sudden weight loss, lethargy, excessive thirst, etc.) make an appointment as soon as possible.

Sending you good wishes! Best, Steph


Hady Chahine profile image

Hady Chahine 4 years ago from Manhattan Beach

Nice hub. I'll forward to my cousin who suffers from diabetes. Thanks!


stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thank you Hady! Hope your cousin finds it helpful. Best, Steph

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