A home blood glucose test can be a safe and affordable way to check for diabetes before symptoms appear. The test involves dropping a small amount of blood onto a testing strip and reading the result on a glucose monitor.
In the United States,
For people who already have a diagnosis of diabetes, a simple home blood glucose test is vital for enabling them to manage their blood sugar levels.
A home blood glucose test could even be lifesaving. It can help prevent the complications consistently high blood sugar can cause. Diabetes complications can include cardiovascular disease, kidney problems, and nerve damage.
Home blood glucose monitoring indicates how effectively the body is processing glucose.
A home blood glucose kit reads glucose testing strips. These strips allow the machine to detect the level of glucose in a drop of blood.
People obtain a sample of their blood with a lancet, or small, short needle.
For the most accurate testing, people should keep a record or log of the food they eat and look for trends in their blood glucose readings.
Whether consuming a high or low carbohydrate meal, a higher-than-normal blood sugar reading after a person has eaten suggests that their body is not reducing blood glucose successfully after mealtimes.
Before testing, people will need to read the manual for the blood glucose monitor and testing strips. Many home glucose monitors work in different ways. In most cases, people should only insert testing strips into the monitor immediately before a reading.
After consulting a doctor about the right testing schedule and frequency, a person can follow these steps:
- Wash and dry the hands before handling the testing kit.
- Some glucose monitors allow testing on the arm or another, less sensitive area of the body. Rapid changes in blood sugar may not present accurately in less sensitive areas. The finger is usually best when monitoring for rapid changes in blood sugar.
- When testing on the finger, use the side of the finger, and test different fingers on each occasion.
- Touch the drop of blood to the testing strip and wait for a result.
- Note and record the blood glucose reading following each test.
Some people with diabetes also use an alternative blood test to measure glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c). The procedure for this test is mostly the same but will produce different readings.
Sometimes known as A1c, the test indicates blood sugar levels over the preceding 2–3 months.
A doctor might recommend testing at different times throughout the day. These include:
- in the morning when you wake up, to take a fasting glucose reading
- prior to eating a meal
- 2 hours following a meal
- overnight, typically between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.
The doctor will personalize the glucose monitoring schedule for the individual.
For people with diabetes, blood sugar readings should be
- Before meals: 80 to 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
- Roughly 2 hours after a meal begins: less than 180 mg/dL
Before beginning home testing, it is important that people get clear, target figures from their doctor.
Target numbers may vary from person to person and may change over time, depending on an individual’s health, age, weight, and other factors.
For people who do not have diabetes, blood sugar levels should be within the following
- Before meals: 99 mg/dL
- 2 hours following a meal:
A person cannot diagnose diabetes using home testing alone. People with unusual readings will need further testing during a doctor’s appointment.
The doctor might order:
- fasting tests
- oral glucose tolerance tests
- HbA1c tests
- a combination of these methods
A blood glucose monitor, testing strips, and a lancet to draw the blood are all necessary testing equipment. Some testing kits offer all three, while others require separate purchases for each piece.
People with diabetes use many testing strips, so it may be wise to carefully consider the cost of the testing strips as well as the monitor.
Some other tips for buying a monitor include:
- how easy the monitor is to use
- insurance coverage
- whether you can download data from the monitor
- flexibility if you wish to get blood samples from places other than the finger
Many people with diabetes have no signs of the condition at all. However, the lack of symptoms does not necessarily mean the absence of diabetes.
When symptoms occur, many of the effects of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the same since both affect blood sugar regulation in the body. Symptoms include:
- increased hunger and thirst
- increased urination, particularly at night
- unexplained weight loss
- unexplainable tiredness
- blurred vision
- slow-healing sores or wounds that appear to heal and then reopen
Pregnant people who suddenly experience these symptoms should consider the possibility of diabetes.
The placenta releases hormones during pregnancy that can make it more difficult for the body to manage blood sugar. Without treatment, gestational diabetes can cause
According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, and the disease can lead to a host of complications.
- cardiovascular problems, such as stroke, heart attack, and blood clots
- wounds, numbness, tingling
- loss of feet or limbs
- kidney failure
- nerve damage
- chronic headaches
- vision and hearing loss
Early interventions and regular glucose monitoring can reduce the risk of severe or potentially fatal diabetes complications.
The right combination of medication and lifestyle changes may even help reverse some cases of diabetes.
People using home blood glucose tests who have unusually high results, particularly on more than one occasion, will need to see a doctor.
It’s also important that those with diabetes whose blood sugar is not well managed or who experience sudden blood sugar changes consult a doctor.
The doctor may recommend changes in lifestyle, medication, or both. Monitoring carbohydrate intake and exercising regularly are important steps people can take in keeping blood sugar levels well-managed.
People with prediabetes, or borderline diabetes, have an increased risk of developing diabetes. But getting an early diagnosis and taking steps to manage blood sugar levels can help prevent or delay prediabetes from developing into diabetes. Working with their doctor and regularly monitoring their blood glucose are necessary.
Is anything available on the market that automatically monitors my blood glucose and applies medication whenever necessary?
Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) is a system that automatically tests blood sugar about every 5 minutes. This information is sent to a separate insulin pump that administers the right amount of insulin, depending on the CGM reading. It is available for adults and children with a prescription. Both a CGM and an insulin pump are required for automated insulin delivery.