Regular monitoring of blood glucose is the cornerstone of diabetes management. People with diabetes must learn to self monitor their blood glucose levels, interpret the results & know how to respond to them. It is equally crucial to maintain a systematic record / a log book of these reports which assists doctors in selecting, modifying treatment regimen. Home monitoring can be done with the help of a simple device – ‘Glucometer’
Blood glucose meters are reliable if used properly. They are small, portable & user-friendly. The results are available in just a few seconds. Some people initially find pricking the finger uncomfortable, but the lancets (pricking needles) available today are very thin & short, making this less of an issue. Quantity of blood required is also very little (< 1 µL).
A small drop of blood obtained by pricking the skin of a finger is placed on a disposable stripe (which is usually inserted in the glucometer first). Meter reads the stripe & calculates blood sugar levels (Unit: mg/dL) in just a few seconds. Many meters now allow the blood to be drawn from alternate sites such as the arm or palm of the hand, which may be more comfortable for some people. Most meters have memories that will store a specific number of blood glucose results with date & time.
Following are some important points to remember while monitoring blood sugar at home:
1. Blood sugar level must be checked either immediately before a meal or 2 hours later. Blood sugar targets must be set in consultation with doctors, interpretation must be correctly done & appropriate action should be taken over the reports.
2. Washing hands thoroughly before blood sugar checking is important. Spirit swab is not needed if hands are washed properly.
3. Washing hands in warm water before pricking the finger& holding hands below the waist line make obtaining a blood sample easier.
4. Prick on the side of the finger, not too close to the fingernail.
5. Check expiry date of the stripes before using. Old & outdated stripes give false results.
6. The stripe container must be closed immediately after the stripe is removed and should be stored in a cool, dry location; away from direct sunlight.
Blood sugar test should be done as often as needed to learn specific trend of sugar levels. Testing frequency must be increased during illness or when activities vary from the usual routine.
Blood sugar testing thus helps decision making, indicates effectiveness of therapy, determines presence of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels) etc. People with diabetes who test frequently soon learn how meals, specific food, activities, medications affect their blood glucose & thus can manage their diabetes very well.