Regularly monitoring your blood glucose levels is an important part of managing your diabetes. It takes only a few seconds, and is essential if you have type 1, gestational or type 2 diabetes treated with insulin or sulfonylureas (the only oral diabetes medication that can cause hypos). People with other types of diabetes should test their levels as directed by their care team.
Why do I need to test?
In the short term, checking your blood glucose levels will reveal when they are too high (hyperglycaemia) or too low (hypoglycaemia). In the long term, consistent monitoring can show you how factors such as eating, exercise, stress and sleep affect your blood glucose levels. This can assist you in achieving more stable numbers.
What equipment do I need – and where can I get it?
As well as a blood glucose meter, you will need testing strips and a lancing device to draw a blood sample. All of these are available from pharmacies registered with the National Diabetes Service Scheme (NDSS), which you can find at www.ndss.com.au. Your diabetes educator or GP may also be able to supply you with a meter for free, so don’t be shy about asking!
Okay, so I’ve bought a meter… now how do I use it?
When you’re first learning to use your meter, your diabetes educator will be able to talk you through setting it up and testing. If you need a refresher course, these steps may help:
Wash your hands well with soap and warm water to remove any residue, as this can affect the test’s accuracy.
Set your lancing device to as shallow a penetration depth as is necessary to draw blood. This should help lessen any pain.
Place the lancing device on the site you want to puncture – the side of a finger, rather than its pad, tends to be more comfortable.
Wait until the meter is primed to receive a blood droplet – you will know it’s ready when a set symbol appears on the screen.
Press the lancing device firmly against your skin. This will aid penetration, prevent vibration and help you avoid tissue damage.
Transfer the blood sample to the testing strip and wait for your result to appear on the screen.
Remove the strip and dispose of the lancet safely in a sharps container – you can pick these up from your local council or pharmacist. Insert a new lancet in preparation for your next test. Keep in mind that reusing lancets is unhygienic and can result in greater levels of pain or discomfort.
When should I test?
When and how often you test your blood glucose levels depends on the type of diabetes you have and how it is being managed. While it’s important to discuss your particular testing schedule with your care team, in general the best times to monitor are:
Before each meal, before bed and occasionally overnight (2-3am), particularly if you are prone to having overnight hypos (low blood glucose levels).
Before breakfast (fasting) and two hours after any meal (from the start of the meal).
Top tip It’s always a good idea to test more regularly when you are unwell, under stress, experiencing symptoms of high or low blood glucose levels, or making changes to your diabetes management plan, such as modifying your diet, activity levels or medication.
Also increase testing frequency with any changes to your routine. This might be when you are travelling or on holidays, or are driving long distances and on medication that can cause hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels).