Diabetes blood glucose testing

If you have diabetes, you can test your blood glucose levels at home using a blood glucose meter.

Testing your blood glucose (sugar) levels at home is important because it can provide you with useful information to:

  • understand how diet and exercise affect your blood glucose levels.
  • understand how other factors such as illness, or stress affect your blood glucose levels.
  • monitor the effects of your diabetes medication on your blood glucose levels.
  • decide how well you are reaching your overall treatment goals.

What equipment do I need?

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 or diary in which to record your blood glucose levels).

How do I get a blood glucose meter for home use?

undefinedDepending on the type of diabetes you have (type 1 or type 2 diabetes), and the type of medication you are taking, you may qualify for a subsidised blood glucose meter.

A blood glucose test meter is subsidised for people who are:

  • on insulin
  • on glipizide or gliclazide
  • pregnant with diabetes.

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

Learning how to use your blood glucose meter

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

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

When should I test my blood glucose level?

The pattern of testing  depend on a number of factors, including:

  • whether you are newly diagnosed or if you have had diabetes for a long time
  • whether you are on insulin or not
  • what type of diabetes you have
  • whether you are prone to having low blood glucose levels
  • whether your diabetes is stable or unstable at the time
  • whether you are sick with another condition
  • what suits your particular lifestyle
  • how comfortable you feel with your diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes:

  • Test every time you use quick-acting insulin so the dose can be adjusted if your blood glucose is too high or low.
  • The other pattern of testing is to measure blood glucose levels before meals and before bedtime.

Type 2 diabetes:

  • If your diabetes is well controlled, most people do not need to do blood glucose testing
  • If your diabetes is not well controlled with medication and lifestyle measures, you may need to test two or more days per week to see what is happening.
  • The natural progression of diabetes is to get worse with time so most people with type 2 diabetes will need insulin at some point.
  • When on insulin, you will need to test before each meal or as advised by your doctor or nurse.

Cleaning your hands before testing

Cleaning your hands well before testing is essential, as dirt, contaminants or chemicals on the fingers can affect the reading.

The preferred method to clean your hands is to wash with soap, ensuring you rinse well with water to remove all soap residue, and wipe them dry.

How to check your blood glucose

  • Wash and dry your hands before testing.
  • Insert a test strip into your meter.
  • Use your lancet device on the side of your fingertip to get a drop of blood.
    • 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.

How to record your blood glucose results

Every time you measure your blood glucose, record your blood results in a diabetes diary. Some blood glucose meters may record your blood glucose levels automatically.

You can also use your diabetes diary to record:

  • Events such as, if  you had a hypo or low blood glucose.
  • Times when you have eaten very sweet foods such as lollies, chocolate or cake – sometimes this may help explain if your blood glucose level has been very high.

Why should I keep a record of my blood glucose levels?

By keeping a record of your blood glucose levels in a diabetes diary, you and your doctor can find patterns or trends of your blood glucose levels. 

  • One common pattern is to find that your blood glucose level is higher at some times of the day, than others. 
  • Using this information, you and your doctor can decide if your medication needs adjusting.
  • If you are using insulin, your doctor will teach you how to adjust your insulin doses based on these patterns.

You can also use your diary as a motivational tool, to help you achieve your exercise or food goals.

Learn more

Return the Health Navigator diabetes page
Visit Diabetes NZ website 

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Last reviewed: 14 Dec 2016