Monitoring Diabetes at Home - Blood Test (Single Drop)

Why Test Blood?

Accu Check Blood glucose meter and finger pricker, click for larger pop-up The blood test is more accurate and more convenient than a urine test. The aim is to help you take more control of your blood glucose levels, if you don't act on (or learn from) the results of the tests though you may as well not do the test!

If you are on drugs you are likely to be encouraged to do the test at home. If using insulin then good control and immediate monitoring is still more important, as greater swings are possible of both high and low blood sugar (glucose) levels can occur, if doses of insulin are out of balance with what you need.

To do the test at home you will need -

  • A blood glucose meter - this is a palm sized (or smaller). Costs from about £15.00 and available at most chemists, drug stores and some supermarkets.
  • A finger pricker will be supplied with the meter, it looks a little like a fat pen.
  • Test Strips - available on free prescription (UK) for diabetics on drugs or insulin treatments. These will only fit in certain meters so make sure the prescription is for the correct meter.
  • Lancets (for the finger pricker) - also available on free prescription (UK) for diabetics and again may only fit in certain finger prickers so make sure the prescription is for the correct one.

How to Test your Blood Sugar

The test method varies depending on the meter so this is only a guide, refer to the meter instruction for the full details.
  • Put a fresh lancet in the finger pricker.
  • Adjust the depth of penetration on the finger pricker. I use different setting on different fingers.
  • Preferably wash (to remove sugar and debris from skin) hands in warm water (warm hands improves blood flow and makes getting a drop of blood easier). Then dry hands.
  • Insert Test strip into the meter and wait for the meter to display a 'ready' message. My meter displays a picture of a test strip when its ready but this will vary by meter.
  • Set the spring action on the finger pricker.
  • Apply the finger pricker to the fleshy portion of the fingers side and depress the plunger.
  • Remove the finger pricker and gently pinch the flesh on either side of the pin prick until a sufficiently large droplet forms.
  • Apply the droplet to the edge of the test strip.

The reference manual will usually give tips on getting a sufficiently large droplet of blood too.

Generally the thing to watch out for is to completely cover the test area, if you only partially cover it and cannot get another drop quickly try again with a fresh test strip. Once blood is applied to the test strip on the Meters I have used - it takes between 5 and 20 seconds to give a result.

Blood Test Meters

Personally I have only used three meters, the first very cheap and nasty is long since thrown away and I can't recall the maker. The other two are: I only changed to the Lifescan One Touch Ultra meter, because it requires a smaller droplet of blood. Its also quicker than my old Accu-Check Advantage meter and tests in 5 seconds.

Its disadvantage is that it is smaller and a little more fiddly to use.

The Lifescan meter can be used to test in the arm too although there are warnings that this should only be done 2 hours or more after a meal, that is when blood glucose levels are not changing quickly.

Most companies are fairly keen to keep their customers happy, they often supply replacement batteries and testing kits free of charge. Check the manual for a support contact number and ring them up.

Type 1's diabetic's may even find they can get a meter free too.

When should blood sugar levels be checked?

If on a diet and exercise only treatment - Test strips are chargeable. Limited Home monitoring may still be worthwhile to check how good (or otherwise) your control is.

Drug Treatments - If control is good testing once a day or less should be enough. If control is poor get advice! Consider varying the time of day you do the test, try just before meals and 2 hours after a meal.

Insulin or insulin and drugs treatments - Testing needs to be more frequent especially if control is poor - please consult with your G.P. or local medical centre.

How strict should Control be?

Complications of Diabetes are more likely if blood sugar levels are poorly controlled. Ideally everyone should aim for the normal (non-diabetic) range of something like 4.0 to 7.0 mmol/l.

That tight control would be difficult and over restrictive for most. Depending on age and other conditions you may have been given a different target - if in doubt ask.

Harder targets don't guarantee that there will be no diabetic complications but lessen the risk. Its worth discussing what risks there are at your current target levels.

What to do about too many high test readings

All diabetics gets the occasional high reading don't despair when they occur just attempt to learn from what went wrong.

You need to monitor more frequently to see if certain meals are causing the problem, identify the problem times. Do not skip meals, consider having more frequent but smaller meals.

Consider your weight and get advice on loosing weight if you are over weight. Or try small changes to your diet and exercise routines.

If the high readings continue, you need to get professional advice.