Monitoring blood glucose levels is a major component of healthy, successful diabetes management. Understanding the signs, symptoms, and what it feels like to have blood sugar that’s too high or too low, as well as how to address both, will help you establish a healthy self-monitoring routine.
What is self-monitoring?
The goal of self-monitoring your blood sugar is to collect the information you need about your body and your blood sugar trends. In turn, this data can help you successfully manage your diabetes.
It works by performing multiple glucose tests every day or week, depending on your individual needs as determined by you and your healthcare team. Most individuals will start by checking glucose levels at least four times per day, generally when you wake up to capture fasting blood sugar, before your meals, and again before you go to bed.
If you use insulin, it’s also insightful to check your blood glucose levels after eating to get a good reading of your postprandial trends. This helps ensure your current insulin regimen is precise and appropriate or identify where it may need to be adjusted.
Whatever the case, your blood sugar levels will need to be recorded to reveal trends and to have a history on hand. You can also note where you made lifestyle habits, like adjusted carbohydrate intake, insulin dosage, or exercise frequency, and how each impacts your blood sugar levels.
Why self-monitoring helps
When you’re first diagnosed with diabetes, self-monitoring of blood glucose is an essential first step. It offers several benefits that can vastly improve your diabetes control in the short and long run.
It helps you develop an individualized blood glucose profile so that you and your healthcare team can better manage your care. The information you collect also allows you to have more choices as far as day-to-day treatments and lifestyle habits.
Self-monitoring can also be used by individuals who have had diabetes for a while and when an adjustment is needed to their management routine. For instance, knowing your precise blood sugar numbers and trends can help you make decisions about your nutrition, exercise, and insulin regimen.
Many who experience high and low blood sugar levels but struggle to identify and address them can also benefit from self-monitoring. Observing their individual trends can help improve the ability to recognize when blood sugar numbers aren’t within the optimal range.
Trends can also show you the times of day when your blood sugar increases or falls regularly, allowing you to adjust your routine accordingly. If you’ve noticed a dip in the afternoon, for example, you’ll be able to see this trend in your log and think about what habits or factors are contributing.
Lastly, self-monitoring helps improve awareness and empowerment regarding the effects of personal lifestyle choices. It may also improve adherence to medication regimens prescribed for blood sugar control. Ultimately, precise information and good blood sugar control can help prevent diabetes complications and keep you out of the hospital.
Self-monitoring blood glucose steps
There are a few basic steps involved when you begin self-monitoring blood glucose levels. Once you get the hang of them, your self-monitoring routine will become easier.
First, you will be obtaining a small blood sample. This is commonly done with a lancet device, which will release a tiny needle into the skin of the soft part of one of your fingers to draw blood. You can use a DigiVibe device to help reduce the pain of finger pricks at this step.
The blood sample will be applied to a small reagent strip, which you will insert into a reflectance photometer device. This will provide you with a blood sugar reading, which you can either log manually or store in the electronic memory of your glucose meter.
Guidelines for self-monitoring
To get the most accurate results, understanding a few basic blood glucose monitoring guidelines is helpful.
Keep these guidelines in mind as you create a self-monitoring routine:
- Always clean your hands well before testing, with soap and water, to remove germs or food particles. Dry your hands thoroughly before handling your testing materials.
- Only sterile equipment should be used to test blood glucose. Test strips and lancets are indicated for single-use, meaning they are to be discarded after using them one time.
- Be sure to read instructions and understand how to use your testing device for accurate results.
- You may need to experiment with where it feels best for you to test. Many people find that the sides of the soft tips of their fingers are the least painful. Rotating which fingers and areas you use can also help minimize the discomfort of testing.
- Use a DigiVibe device to help reduce the pain of finger pricks, thanks to its vibration technology.
- Store your meter and supplies in a cool, dry place out of sunlight, heat, and moisture to prevent damage.
- Be gentle with your testing site and yourself. Practice will improve your comfort level, speed, and accuracy of testing over time.
Self-monitoring your blood glucose levels is an important method of information gathering. It can be used to provide insight into any symptoms you may be noticing, as well as identify areas where lifestyle habits could be changed. Follow the basic steps and guidelines above to master your blood sugar self-monitoring skills.