Medically Reviewed By: Tom Iarocci, MD
If you have diabetes and your doctor says you need to be checking your blood sugar at home, it is crucial that you do these tests as often and regularly as recommended. While it is true that you get your blood sugar checked when you visit the doctor, you need to also do the testing on your own to keep track of what your blood sugar levels are doing in your daily life. For many people with diabetes, this means testing more than once a day, which can be a pain, but think of it as a powerful tool at your disposal to fight the long-term complications of diabetes. There are many at-home blood sugar testing devices that use a tiny drop of blood and give you your numbers almost instantly. Check with your insurance company about which devices and test strips they cover, or which have low co-pays, because that can reduce your out of pocket expenses.
Testing Your Blood Sugar:
Testing your blood sugar gives you a better picture of your own body and how well it is doing with the diabetes. Everyone is different, and you need to know what your body does after a meal, after eating certain items, or first thing in the morning—whatever testing routine you and your doctor have settled on. You should know the target range of numbers for your blood sugar, and your doctor can give you that information. If your blood sugar levels fall outside of the “good range” make sure you take the proper steps to correct the situation, as directed by your doctor. Talk to your provider to be clear about when you should troubleshoot your levels as you have been instructed, versus when you should call the office right away.
Depending on how the diabetes is behaving and/or responding to treatment, your doctor may recommend a set number of times each day at which you should check your blood sugar. If you have type 1 diabetes, you may be testing anywhere between four and eight times a day, which may include when you are fasting, such as first thing in the morning, as well as before meals, and sometimes after meals. More frequent testing may be needed when exercise is planned. Consumption of snacks and alcoholic beverages can also require more frequent testing.
If you have type 2 diabetes, and you take insulin to treat it, you could be testing two or more times a day. Some patients with type 2 diabetes may not need to test blood sugar daily, but always consult your doctor before stopping your testing routine.
Remember, numbers that you don’t like are still important numbers to record and address with your doctor. Don’t feel badly if you don’t like your results—it might be that you and your doctor need to work together to change the plan a bit so that you get better results. And don’t cheat yourself of all that great information. The results need to be recorded so that you can share the information with the doctor. Looking at your own results over time with your doctor’s feedback can also help you understand how diet and exercise or new diabetes medications, for instance, are affecting your blood sugar levels.
When recording your blood sugar, make sure you include other factors that could be affecting your blood sugar levels, such as: the foods you have eaten, when you last ate, what time you took your medication, your physical activity level, and the date and time of the testing. This way, your doctor can see if there are any irregular patterns in your blood sugar levels, and see how other factors are impacting your results.