Blood glucose testing for type 2 diabetes

If you have type 2 diabetes, regular blood glucose testing at home using a blood glucose meter is generally not needed unless you are taking insulin or glipizide, gliclazide or glibenclamide.

When is regular blood glucose testing at home recommended?

For people with type 2 diabetes, regular testing of blood glucose levels at home using a blood glucose test meter is generally not needed unless you are:

However, if you have type 2 diabetes, your healthcare provider will check your HbA1c levels every 3–6 months. This is to assess your blood glucose control and check how well your lifestyle measures such as diet and exercise, together with your diabetes medicines, are working. 

What is the difference between testing blood glucose levels at home and HbA1c levels?

Testing blood glucose levels at home: This is done with a blood glucose test meter. It is a finger prick test where a sample of blood is placed on a test strip. This is inserted into the blood glucose meter, which gives you a reading of your blood glucose at a single moment in time.

HbA1c test: This test measures your average blood glucose level over the past 2–3 months. HbA1c testing is less affected by daily variations in blood glucose due to smoking, exercise, medicines and what you eat. An HbA1c test can't be done at home – instead a blood sample is sent to the laboratory. Read more about the HbA1c test for type 2 diabetes

What equipment do I need to test my blood glucose at home?

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You will need:

  • a blood glucose test meter
  • lancets (prickers)
  • a lancing device (a device, like a pen, to hold the pricker)
  • blood glucose diagnostic test strip
  • a notebook, diary or app to record your blood glucose levels.

In New Zealand a blood glucose test meter, together with lancets and diagnostic test strips, are only subsidised (funded) for people who are taking insulin, glipizide, gliclazide, glibenclamide or who have diabetes and are pregnant.

These criteria can change, so check with your diabetes nurse or doctor.

If you don’t qualify for a subsidised blood glucose meter, you can expect to pay between $50–70 to get fully set up with testing equipment. If you are buying or applying for a home testing meter, you will also need a finger-pricking device. 

See these videos about blood glucose meters

How do I check my blood glucose?

If you are unsure how to use your blood glucose meter, there are various healthcare providers who can teach you, such as:

  • a diabetes nurse educator
  • your local pharmacist
  • the practice nurse at your GP surgery.

The following is a guide: 

  • Wash and dry your hands before testing.
  • Insert a test strip into your meter.
  • Use your lancet device to get a drop of blood from the side of your fingertip. 
  • To get a better-sized drop of blood, try warming your hands before testing.
  • Touch and hold the edge of the test strip to the drop of blood and wait for the result.
  • Your blood glucose reading will show up on the glucose meter display.

It's important to record your blood glucose level. Some blood glucose meters may record your blood glucose levels automatically or you can record your results in a diabetes diary or in an app on your phone. Read about diabetes apps

You need to take your blood glucose record book or app to all appointments with your doctor, diabetes nurse educator or diabetes nurse specialist. They can check your blood glucose levels and decide on any medicine changes.

Wash your hands before testing

Washing your hands well before testing is essential, as dirt, contaminants or chemicals on your fingers can affect the reading. The preferred method is to wash your hands with soap, ensuring you rinse well with water to remove all soap residue, and then wipe them dry.

When should I test my blood glucose level?

If you have home blood glucose testing as part of your diabetes treatment plan, then you should always test if you have symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) or hyperglycaemia (raised blood glucose). If you are feeling well, then how often you monitor your blood glucose level during the week can change, depending on your situation.

Taking glipizide, gliclazide or glibenclamide

When you first start glipizide, gliclazide or glibenclamide, you will need to test your blood glucose levels before meals and 2 hours after meals. Once your dose is stabilised, you can do less testing.

Always test your blood glucose levels if you have symptoms of low blood glucose, such as feeling shaky, sweaty or suddenly unwell, suddenly feeling very hungry, feeling dizzy, have a rapid change in behaviour or irritability. These are symptoms of hypoglcaemia.

Using insulin

If you are using insulin, measuring your blood glucose is recommended to help guide your insulin dosing and meal planning. The goal for most people is to keep your glucose levels as close to the normal range as possible (4–8mmol/L before meals). When you first start insulin, you will need to test your blood glucose before meals and after meals. But once you have found the insulin dose that best suits you, you can do less testing. Occasionally you may be asked to test overnight. 

Always test your blood glucose levels if you have symptoms of low blood glucose, such as feeling shaky, sweaty or suddenly unwell, suddenly feeling very hungry, feeling dizzy, have a rapid change in behaviour or irritability. These are symptoms of hypoglcaemia.

When you are unwell

It's also recommended that you check your blood glucose levels at least 3–4 times per day if you are feeling unwell. Talk to your doctor or nurse if you don’t have a plan. Read more about having a diabetes sick day plan.

Other reasons for monitoring your blood glucose more often 

You will need to check your blood glucose more often if you:

  • are pregnant
  • take insulin, glipizide, gliclazide or glibenclamide and work in a hazardous job such as driving or operating machinery
  • have a big change in your daily routine (eg, shift-work pattern, activity, food)
  • your blood glucose levels are not well controlled – your healthcare team will advise you when to do this, so that your treatment can be adjusted.

Learn more

The following links provide further information about blood glucose testing in type 2 diabetes. Be aware that websites from other countries may have information that differs from New Zealand recommendations.   

Blood glucose testing for type 2 diabetes Diabetes NZ

Reference

  1. Glycaemic targets in the treatment of diabetes Ministry of Health, NZ and New Zealand Society for the Study of Diabetes, 2020

Reviewed by

Dr Alice Miller trained as a GP in the UK and has been working in New Zealand since 2013. She has undertaken extra study in diabetes, sexual and reproductive healthcare, and skin cancer medicine. Alice has a special interest in preventative health and self-care, which she is building on by studying for the Diploma of Public Health with the University of Otago in Wellington.
Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Dr Alice Miller, FRNZCGP, Wellington Last reviewed: 12 Mar 2021