Measuring Blood Glucose

When you start insulin treatment for diabetes, your doctor will talk to you about your ideal concentration of blood glucose. It is vital that you do your best to maintain the concentration of sugar within your blood within a good range, as it can help to decrease your risk of developing further complications. You will most probably be told to take four or more measurements a day, to make sure you are not at risk of becoming hypo or hyperglycaemic.  Ideally you should be aiming for a range between 100 and 130 mg/dL before food and between 110 and 150 mg/dL before you go to sleep.

Finger Prick Tests

There are a number of ways available to measure your blood glucose. The most common way is to use a finger prick test. Just as it sounds, it involves pricking the side of your finger (there are fewer nerves there, so less pain) then putting a drop of your blood onto a special strip. This is then placed into a small monitoring device which will tell you the concentration of glucose in your blood. Understandably, they aren’t as accurate as the equipment that is available in most laboratories, however they are still good enough.

To help you get the most accurate results possible from your meter, you should:

  • Always use fresh strips
  • Reset the device regularly
  • Test the monitor frequently

Using the information from the monitor, you will be able to adjust the amount of insulin you take to help maintain your blood glucose levels.

At the moment the finger prick test offers the best and most accurate way of testing blood sugar levels. There is a lot of money currently being put into developing other methods for testing blood glucose. Some of these devices are:

  • A wristwatch like device that measures your blood glucose by sending electric impulses through the skin. In trials it has proved effective for alerting you if you develop hypoglycaemia at night. Unfortunately it will not be able to be used without regular finger prick tests.
  • A similar device to the continuous infusion pump uses a needle to continuously measure your blood glucose. It is inserted into the abdomen just like the needle of the pump. You wear it for 5 days and it stores your blood glucose level measurements to check how well you are controlling it. This method does not aim to replace the finger prick test, merely supplement it.

In the next section you can read about the most commonly used tests to measure how well you are controlling your blood glucose level, called the glycosylated haemoglobin level.

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