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When and how often you should test your blood sugar depends on the type of diabetes you have and your treatment.
Type 1 diabetes
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), if you’re managing type 1 diabetes with multiple dose insulin or an insulin pump, you’ll want to monitor your blood sugar before:
- eating a meal or snack
- critical tasks like driving or babysitting
High blood sugar
You’ll want to check your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes and feel increasing thirst and the urge to urinate. These could be symptoms of high blood sugar and you may need to modify your treatment plan.
If your diabetes is well-controlled but you still have symptoms, it may mean you’re getting sick or that you’re under stress.
Exercising and managing your carbohydrate intake may help with lowering your blood sugar levels. If these changes don’t work, you may need to meet with your doctor to decide how to get your blood sugar levels back into target range.
Low blood sugar
Check your blood sugar levels if you feel any of the following symptoms:
- sweaty or chilly
- irritated or impatient
- lightheaded or dizzy
- hungry and nauseous
- tingly or numb in the lips or tongue
- angry, stubborn, or sad
Some symptoms like delirium, seizures, or unconsciousness can be symptoms of low blood sugar or insulin shock. If you’re on daily insulin injections, ask your doctor about glucagon, a prescription medicine that can help if you’re having a severe low blood sugar reaction.
You can also have low blood sugar and show no symptoms. This is called hypoglycemia unawareness. If you have a history of hypoglycemia unawareness, you may need to test your blood sugar more often.
Some women develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy. This is when hormones interfere with the way your body uses insulin. It causes sugar to accumulate in the blood.
Your doctor will recommend testing your blood sugar regularly if you have gestational diabetes. Testing will make sure that your blood glucose level is within a healthy range. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after childbirth.
No scheduled testing
Home testing may be unnecessary if you have type 2 diabetes and have a diet- and exercise-based treatment plan. You may also not need home testing if you’re taking medications that aren’t associated with low blood sugar.
To get a sample, your healthcare provider will insert a needle into your vein and draw blood. Your doctor will ask you to fast for 12 hours before the FBS test. You don’t need to fast before the A1C test.
You can take blood sugar tests at home with a glucometer. The exact steps of finger stick glucose meter tests vary depending on the type of glucose meter. Your home kit will have instructions.
The procedure involves pricking your finger and putting the blood on a glucose meter strip. The strip is usually already inserted into the machine. Your results will show on the screen in 10 to 20 seconds.
Purchase a home glucose test online.
Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM)
You can wear a device for continuous glucose monitoring (CGM). The glucose sensor is inserted under your skin and reads the sugar in your body tissue continuously. It alerts you whenever your blood sugar is too low or too high.
The sensor can last several days to a week before you need to replace it. You’ll still have to check your blood sugar with a meter twice a day to calibrate your CGM.
CGM devices aren’t as reliable for acute problems like identifying low blood sugar levels. For the most accurate results you should use your glucometer.
Depending on your condition and the timing of your test, your blood sugar levels should be in the target ranges listed below:
|Time||People without diabetes||People with diabetes|
|before breakfast||under 70-99 mg/dL||80-130 mg/dL|
|before lunch, dinner, and snacks||under 70-99 mg/dL||80-130 mg/dL|
|two hours after eating||under 140 mg/dL||under 180 mg/dL|
Your doctor will provide a more specific target range for your blood sugar levels depending on the following factors:
- personal history
- how long you’ve had diabetes
- presence of diabetes complications
- overall health
Tracking your blood sugar levels is one way to take control of your diabetes. You may find it helpful to log your results in a journal or app. Trends like continuously having levels that are too high or too low may mean adjusting your treatment for better results.
The table below shows what your blood sugar test results mean:
|under 100 mg/dL||between 110–125 mg/dL||greater than or equal to 126 mg/dL|
|under 5.7 percent||5.7-6.4 percent||greater than or equal to 6.5 percent|
Your doctor will be able to help create a treatment plan if your results suggest prediabetes or diabetes.