Diabetes - testing blood glucose levels at home

Diabetes - testing blood glucose levels at home

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WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO TEST YOUR BLOOD SUGAR WHEN YOU HAVE DIABETES?

There are a few reasons why it is important to test your blood sugar when you have diabetes:

  • You can see how effectively your medication is working
  • You can detect if your blood glucose too low or too high. Therefore, you prevent yourself from hypoglycaemia (too low) and hyper glycaemia (too high)
  • You can learn what impact your diet and exercise have on your blood glucose levels
  • You can monitor your overall disease control to prevent health complications in the future
  • You can see the influence that things like stress, menopause, menstrual changes, traveling and illness may affect your blood glucose reading
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HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU TEST YOUR BLOOD SUGAR?

The number of times per day that someone living with diabetes should test their blood sugar depends on different factors. This includes whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, whether you use oral or injectable drugs and the type of insulin that you use (e.g. long-acting or short-acting). Your doctor should guide you in terms of how often you need to test.  These are general guidelines and might differ from person to person.

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PEOPLE LIVING WITH TYPE 2 DIABETES:

Only using orals/tablets

  • Test blood glucose once a day

Long acting/intermediate insulin

  • Test before breakfast and before dinner

Long acting and short acting insulin

  • Before meals
  • Once a day 2 hours after a meal. (post-prandial blood glucose). Do this test after a different meal each day.
  • WHEN YOU FEEL UNWELL!
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PEOPLE LIVING WITH TYPE 1 DIABETES:

  • Before meals
  • Before bedtime
  • Before and after exercise
  • When you are ill
  • When you change your medication
  • WHEN YOU FEEL UNWELL!
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COMPLICATIONS OF POOR GLUCOSE CONTROL

Complications of low glucose levels:

  • A medication dose (insulin/tablets) that is too high, skipping a meal or exercising without checking your blood glucose can cause low blood glucose.
  • Low blood glucose (hypoglycaemia) can be dangerous if your sugar level drops too low.
  • Symptoms of hypoglycaemia include confusion, irritability, shaking or trembling, fatigue, palpitations (fast, pounding heartbeat) and clammy hands. If untreated, it can lead to seizures or even coma. It is important to be able to recognise these changes and get help.
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Complications of high glucose levels:

The signs and symptoms include the following:

  • High blood sugar
  • High levels of sugar in the urine
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Long term complications of high glucose levels:
  • Cardiovascular disease (can lead to heart attacks, stroke or damage to blood vessels to your arms or legs)
  • Nerve damage (loss of sensation in your hands or feet; pins and needles)
  • Kidney damage (can lead to kidney failure requiring dialysis)
  • Eye damage (retinal damage which can progress to blindness)

Remember that these are general guidelines, and some people may have different needs for testing glucose or different values to aim for. This does not replace the treatment plan or advice given to you by your doctor.

Always check with your doctor if you are unsure.

Medical References

Article written by Annemarie Van't Foort | Health Window

  1. SEMDSA Type 2 Diabetes Guidelines Expert Committee. JEMDSA 2017; 22(1)(Supplement 1): S1-S196
  2. CDE Clinical Guidelines 2018 (accessed from http://www.cdediabetes.co.za/uploads/images/files/CDE%20Clinical%20Guidelines_May%202018.pdf on 30 October 2020)
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