Your doctor may have recommended that you try self-monitoring if:
- you’re already taking insulin or medicines to lower your blood glucose
- you have recently made lifestyle changes or had your medicines adjusted
- you’re pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
- if you’re ill and need to be particularly careful that your blood glucose level remains stable
Keeping a record of your blood glucose level will help you to see how it’s affected by different foods or activities. It can also indicate how well your medicines are working. This in turn will mean you’re better equipped to make decisions about your lifestyle and so try to prevent problems before they start.
Another advantage of self-monitoring may be if you often develop hypoglycaemia or worry a lot about it – testing yourself regularly may reduce this.
Your healthcare team will have given you information and advice about how to test your blood glucose. You will also have agreed with them your target blood glucose level and how often you need to test it. This varies from person to person and depends on a number of things, for example, if you’re on insulin, how often you take a dose.
You need some specific equipment for self-monitoring, including:
- a meter – this has a screen that displays your blood glucose reading
- test strips
- a finger pricker
Depending on your circumstances, these may be provided for you or you may have to pay for them.
Although you will have been given instructions from your healthcare team about how to self-monitor, here are a few tips. They may help to make the process easier, safer and more accurate.
- Wash and dry your hands before and after testing.
- Use a new lancet every time.
- Don’t always use the same finger, and don’t use your thumb or forefinger.
- Get rid of the lancet and test strip safely – into a sharps bin is best.
- Don’t forget to record the reading.
You get your reading within a few seconds so you can quickly treat any significant change in your blood glucose. If your level does dip below your target meaning you’re hypoglycaemic, make sure you eat or drink something sugary straight away. A handful of sweets or a glass of fruit juice is ideal. If you’re at all concerned about your blood glucose, contact your doctor or healthcare team for advice.
Self-monitoring doesn’t suit everyone, but it can really help some people feel more in control of their diabetes – and that can only be a good thing.
- DCCT and EDIC: the diabetes control and complications trial and follow-up study. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC). www.diabetes.niddk.nih.gov, published September 2013
- Type 2 diabetes. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.nice.org.uk, published July 2010
- Type 2 diabetes – management. Map of Medicine. www.mapofmedicine.com, published July 2013
- Self monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG). Diabetes.co.uk. www.diabetes.co.uk, accessed 20 September 2013
- Self monitoring of blood glucose in non-insulin treated type 2 diabetes. International Diabetes Federation. www.idf.org, published October 2008
- Management of diabetes. A national clinical guideline. Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN), March 2010. www.sign.ac.uk
- How often should patients be self-monitoring their blood glucose? Medscape Multispecialty. www.medscape.org, accessed 20 September 2013
- Self-blood glucose testing. Diabetes UK. www.diabetes.org.uk, accessed 20 September 2013
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