Some patients with type 2 diabetes may not need to self-test their blood glucose levels.
However, those patients who are taking diabetes control medications are generally advised to self-evaluate. The frequency of the tests will depend on the type of medication prescribed to the patient.
Medications associated with hypoglycemia require more frequent blood glucose monitoring, for example sulfonylureas and insulin.
Although capillary blood glucose monitoring is most often recommended for people with diabetes, your doctor may also recommend self-tests if you have problems with unstable blood sugar levels or during bouts of infection or some other illness.
Capillary blood glucose tests are simple and quick to perform, requiring only a simple fingertip prick, a small drop of blood, and a few minutes of patience.
Blood glucose levels normally rise after a carbohydrate-rich meal and return to normal levels within a few hours.
But if glucose levels rise more than normal and recover more slowly, you may have diabetes.
Your doctor may administer tests that measure blood glucose levels immediately before eating a carbohydrate-rich meal and for several hours afterward.
If you already have diabetes, your doctor may want your blood glucose levels to be checked after meals to make sure your glucose is kept within the expected range.
This device, also called a glucose meter or monitor, measures the amount of sugar (or glucose) in a drop of blood.
You can tell when your glucose is too low or too high.
Glucometers can also show how diet, exercise, stress, illness, and your medications affect your blood sugar level. When purchasing a glucose monitor, the patient should feel comfortable and confident.
Look for one with a screen large enough to read and that requires less than one microliter of blood sample.
Consider a meter that can download its readings to your smartphone, tablet, or computer.
Looking at charts of how blood sugar levels differ throughout the day, helping you make better decisions about when to exercise and what to eat.
To perform a capillary blood glucose level, it is necessary to:
- A glucometer (measuring device).
- A test strip.
- A piercer or a lancet.
- A tissue or gauze.
- A control notebook.
Before the test
Before the patient is pricked with the lancet, take a minute to ensure that they are fully prepared for the procedure.
Make sure the test strips you plan to use are specifically designed for use with your blood glucose meter.
Also, check the expiration date on the test strips, expired strips could give incorrect results.
Your meter will likely also recommend regular quality control testing to ensure accuracy.
First turn on the meter before you begin; perform quality control tests if indicated on the screen.
The basic procedure
After washing your hands, a test strip is removed from the container and inserted into the glucometer.
You select a site at your fingertips that you plan to prod; a location is chosen around the edges of the toe pads as it is less obtrusive.
The lancet is used to prick the finger at the desired location.
When the drop of blood appears on the surface, touch the edge of the test strip with the drop of blood; the strip should bring the blood to the test window.
Pressure is applied to the fingertip with a small gauze or paper bandage while the test results appear on the screen.
If the blood sample was obtained properly, the glucometer should show the blood sugar level.
Blood glucose levels
Although specific blood glucose ranges vary from person to person, there is a general range for most healthy people.
Your doctor can help you determine a more individualized capillary blood glucose target range.
Healthy, non-diabetic people typically have blood glucose levels of less than 120 milligrams per deciliter two hours after a normal meal, which rarely exceeds 140 milligrams per deciliter.
Levels return to normal in two to three hours.
When the patient is tested for glucose tolerance, they consume a high-carbohydrate drink or snack that contains more than 75 grams of carbohydrate.
Within one hour, your test enters the normal, non-diabetic range if your blood glucose level remains below 200 milligrams per deciliter.
Two hours after your meal, your blood glucose should stay below 140 milligrams per deciliter.
A level of more than 200 milligrams per deciliter two hours post-prandial, after eating a meal, indicates the presence of diabetes.
Levels between 140 and 200 mg milligrams per deciliter indicate prediabetes, a condition with a strong risk of developing diabetes later in life.
Diabetics experience larger spikes in blood glucose that take longer to return to baseline.
The expected results in diabetics are generally: blood glucose one hour after eating should be kept below 180 milligrams per deciliter or no more than 80 milligrams per deciliter above pre-meal levels.
The highest spikes in blood glucose levels often occur after breakfast.
If you experience hypoglycemia , or low blood glucose levels before a meal, you may experience a higher than normal spike above baseline levels; this does not necessarily indicate an abnormal increase.
Maintaining levels in normal ranges
If you have diabetes, it can be difficult to keep your blood glucose within the normal range after a carbohydrate-rich meal.
The type of carbohydrates you choose can make a difference in your blood sugar level.
Complex carbohydrates, which must be broken down into simple sugars before the body can absorb them, slow the absorption process and help stabilize blood sugar levels.
The glycemic index defines carbohydrates by their rate of absorption.
Carbohydrates with a low glycemic index, less than 45, cause a slow and steady rise in blood glucose.
Whole grains like oats, wheat, barley, brown rice, and lesser-known grains like quinoa help keep your levels in range.
Foods high in fiber, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, also slow digestion and help stabilize blood glucose after meals.
Exercise can also help slow digestion and stabilize spikes in glucose.
Risks of high blood glucose levels
When you experience spikes in your blood glucose after eating high-carbohydrate meals, your levels will be higher than normal for up to six to nine hours a day.
Hyperglycemia damages blood vessels, leading to complications such as diabetic retinopathy , or nerve damage.
High blood glucose levels after meals also increase the risk of developing atherosclerosis, a build-up of plaque in the arteries that can cause a heart attack or stroke.
When one person performs capillary blood glucose monitoring tests on another person, they should follow universal precautions for bloodborne pathogens.
This process involves washing hands before the procedure, wearing gloves during the procedure, and when handling any device contaminated with the person’s blood, including the test strip and needle.
The lancet and test strip should be disposed of in suitable containers and hands washed after the procedure.
If the blood glucose meter will be used for multiple people, it should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between each test.