What are the Best Ways to Monitor Your Blood Glucose in 2022?
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What are the Best Ways to Monitor your Blood Glucose?
While diabetes treatments are always evolving, testing your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels remains an essential part of keeping your symptoms in check. There are several different types of blood sugar testing. The one you use will depend whether you have type 1 or 2 diabetes, as well as what medications you take.
If you need to take regular blood glucose readings, you may wish to try a continuous glucose monitor. This eliminates the need for taking painful or inconvenient finger-prick tests throughout the day.
Read on to learn about different types of tests and monitoring devices for checking your blood glucose levels.
Continuous Glucose Monitors? (CGMs)
A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a small device embedded just under the skin that uses a sensor to detect your blood glucose levels. It measures your blood sugar levels every couple of minutes, 24 hours a day, without you needing to do anything.
The CGM can send your results to a receiver or your smartphone. It also will raise an alarm if your blood sugar dips or rises too quickly, or if it is too low or too high.
People who might be eligible for a GCM and find it a more comfortable, convenient alternative to doing frequent finger pricking tests include:
- adults and children with type 1 diabetes
- adults and children with type 2 diabetes who are taking insulin
- people who have frequent hypos, especially while they are sleeping or at other times when they are hard to detect
- people with diabetes who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant
- people whose blood sugar readings are affected by their exercise routines
- those changing diabetes treatments or starting insulin pump therapy
There are short- and long-term devices with a variety of different features. A specialist nurse at the London Diabetes Centre can go through your options for choosing a CGM.
Flash Glucose Monitors (FreeStyle Libre)
Flash glucose monitoring is similar to using a CGM. Although it doesn’t have the same alarm system for hypos and hypers, it can be a more cost effective option.
The London Diabetes Centre offers flash glucose monitoring with the Freestyle Libre device. You scan the FreeStyle Libre using a smartphone app, which can show you whether your blood sugar levels are going up or down.
Finger Prick Tests
A finger prick test can give you timely, accurate readings whenever you need them. Even people using continuous glucose monitoring or flash monitoring may still need to do some finger-prick tests.
To do a finger prick test, you will need a machine called a blood glucose monitor, a small needle called a lancet and a test strip. You can get these from a doctor or pharmacist, or by purchasing them online.
First, you will put a test strip into the opening in the monitor. Then, using the lancet, you will prick the fleshy part of your fingertip and hold it against the test strip. The glucometer will take a reading from the drop of blood that collects on the strip.
Not every person with diabetes needs to check their own blood glucose levels in this way, so be sure to speak to your healthcare team about your individual needs.
Some people find finger-prick tests to be a simple part of their healthcare routine, while others find it stressful or scary. A doctor or nurse can help you manage any anxiety you may have about this type of testing, and ensure that you are doing it correctly.
Ways to make a finger prick test more comfortable include:
- alternating fingers when doing regular readings to reduce soreness
- getting a monitor that allows you to prick your thigh, forearm or another part of your hand
- getting a spring-loaded lancet
Types of Blood Glucose Monitor
There are many brands of blood glucose monitors, or glucometers, available in the UK. New ones are developed all the time. You might not have the same one as other people that you know with diabetes, or as ones you have seen online.
If you need to use a blood glucose monitor, the type you receive might also depend on your location. Different pharmacies and NHS trusts may only have some types of meter in stock. They will usually also stock the test strips that match that meter.
Some blood glucose meters can give you additional information, like your ketone measurement or your insulin-carbohydrate ratio. Others have USB or Bluetooth connections, making it easy for you to log your results on a computer or smartphone.
You may also benefit from a continuous glucose monitoring device, or CGM. These use a special sensor in your arm or abdomen to detect your blood sugar levels without the need for frequent finger pricking tests.
The CGM device will display your blood sugar levels on a receiver or smartphone app. They can also raise an alarm if your blood glucose rises or falls too quickly, or if it goes out of your target range.
For some people, these advances make treatment easier, while others may find the amount of information overwhelming. Speak to a healthcare professional about finding the right balance for you.
HbA1c Blood Tests
In addition to testing at home, you will likely require a HbA1c blood test at least once a year. People with high blood sugar levels may need to test every 3 or 6 months.
This test measures the blood sugar on the proteins in your red blood cells. These proteins deliver oxygen throughout the body. Red blood cells survive for roughly three months, so a HbA1c blood test can provide a good estimate of your average blood sugar over that time period.
A member of your healthcare team will usually do the HbA1c blood test in a clinic or hospital.
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