Bermuda Sun News ... Beyond the Headlines

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

All you need to know about testing your blood sugar levels

By Debbie Jones
Bermuda Hospitals Board

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Carefully does it: There are a number of simple rules and tips to ensure an accurate blood sugar reading. *MCT photo

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 12: Debbie Jones is currently a vice president of the International Diabetes Federation and a diabetes nurse educator at the Bermuda Hospitals Board’s Diabetes Education Centre. She writes a monthly diabetes column for the Bermuda Sun to help educate people about one of the island’s biggest killers.


Everyday someone asks if we have “the meter where you don’t have to use blood.”

We ask them “what meter is that?”

“The meter they advertise on television.”

“Oh,” we say. “If you listen to that ad what it says is the meter where you don’t have to prick your finger. It still needs blood but suggests you can use blood from somewhere other than your finger such as your arm or leg.”

Most people do not like having to pricking their finger because it potentially hurts.

However, blood glucose testing is more accurate than testing urine. It is telling you what your blood sugar is right now. Before blood glucose meters were available, the only choice was testing urine, which was not accurate. Urine testing tells you what your blood sugar was hours ago and sugar does not appear in the urine until the blood sugar is over 180mg/dl.

There are, however, some important things you need to know about blood sugar testing.

• Make sure the strips you are using are in date. You can check this by looking at the date on the bottle or box of test strips.

• You must use the correct strip for the meter. In other words you can’t use one company’s test strip in another company’s meter.

• The top needs to be kept on the bottle of strips. Test strips left with the top off are exposed to light and humidity and will not give accurate readings.

• Exposure to excessive temperatures can also affect the test strips, so do not leave them on a window sill or glove compartment of a car.

• Make sure your hands are clean before doing a reading. Many patients test after eating an apple or orange and before washing their hands and then find their blood sugar is sky high. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly after eating fruit and before testing, as sugar from the fruit can affect blood glucose readings.

• No one enjoys inflicting pain, so try pricking the finger on the outside rather than in the centre or tip.

• Make sure the test strip is adequately covered with blood and that you have collected enough blood. Some strips will give higher readings with not enough blood and some will read lower.

What are you going to do with the readings? Think why you are testing. You are finding out how well you are doing. Test before and after exercise. Test after eating in a restaurant or after trying out a new recipe. The goal is to keep your blood sugars normal. Self blood glucose monitoring is the single most important advancement in diabetes care since the discovery of insulin.

Blood glucose monitoring allows a diabetic to be in control and to make decisions, rather than waiting for the next appointment with a physician. People live with diabetes 24 hours a day. You may see your physician for 30 minutes every three months. It is important for diabetics to understand how to self manage their diabetes and make informed decisions based on blood sugars.

One last point is to take your blood glucose meter with you to the lab. Ask the lab technician to test your meter with a drop of blood they have drawn in the lab and when the results come back compare it to that of the meter. Blood glucose meters have revolutionized diabetes care but they do not replace laboratory testing and if the strips are out of date or if there is not enough blood or if hands have not been washed after eating fruit, a wrong reading can occur.

Finally it is important to have a blood test called Haemoglobin A1c every three months. This is a lab test that measures the average blood glucose over the previous three months. So if your Haemoglobin A1c is high, yet blood glucose readings are normal or if your Hemoglobin A1c is good, yet blood glucose readings are high, the strips may be the problem.

Remember, being in the driving seat is important. Driving a car without a dashboard is very dangerous. The same is true for diabetes. Blood glucose testing becomes the dashboard allowing you to be in control.



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