A glucometer is a device that you can use at home to measure your blood glucose (sugar) levels. It can help you monitor your diabetes and adjust your treatment accordingly. However, to get accurate and reliable results, you need to take some precautions while using a glucometer. Here are some tips to follow.
Preparing the glucometer
Before you use your glucometer, you need to:
Read the manufacturer’s instructions on how to care for and use the device correctly.
Check whether your glucometer is calibrated to report venous plasma glucose or whole blood glucose. Venous plasma glucose is higher than whole blood glucose because it contains more water. Most of the current glucometers give results as equivalent to venous plasma glucose.
Check whether your glucometer uses milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or millimoles per liter (mmol/L) as the unit of measurement. Some glucometers use SI units (mmol/L) and some use traditional units (mg/dL). Using the wrong unit of measure may cause you to misinterpret your blood glucose level and take incorrect action. To convert mmol/L to mg/dL, multiply by 18. To convert mg/dL to mmol/L, divide by 18.
Check whether your glucometer requires coding or not. Coding means entering a code number that matches the test strip vial into the device. This ensures that the device and the test strip are compatible and calibrated. Some glucometers do not require coding and can automatically detect the test strip type. If your glucometer requires coding, make sure you enter the correct code every time you change the test strip vial.
Preparing the sample site
Before you test your blood glucose, you need to:
Wash your hands with soap and water and dry them well. Dirt or residue on your fingers can cause an inaccurate reading.
Choose a spot on the side of your fingertip to prick. Avoid the center of your fingertip, where there are more nerve endings and more pain. Rotate your fingers to avoid soreness and calluses.
Use a new, sterile lancet and a lancing device to prick your finger. A lancet is a small needle that draws a drop of blood from your finger. A lancing device is a tool that holds the lancet and makes the prick easier and less painful. You can adjust the depth of the prick according to your skin type and preference. Never share a lancet or a lancing device with anyone else.
Gently squeeze your finger to get a drop of blood. You may need to massage your finger from the base to the tip to help the blood flow.
Testing your blood glucose
To test your blood glucose, you need to:
Insert a new test strip into the glucometer and turn it on.
Touch the edge of the test strip to the drop of blood and let it fill the strip completely.
Wait for the glucometer to display your result. It usually takes a few seconds.
Dispose of the used lancet and test strip in a sharps container or a puncture-proof container with a lid.
Write down your result in a logbook or an app, along with the date, time, and any other relevant information, such as what you ate, how much you exercised, or how you felt.
Interpreting your result
Your result tells you how much glucose is in your blood at a certain time. It can help you understand how different factors affect your blood glucose levels, such as food, exercise, stress, illness, medications, etc.
Your doctor will help you set target ranges for your blood glucose levels based on your age, health condition, and other factors. These ranges may vary from person to person, but in general, they are:
Before meals: 80 to 130 mg/dL or 4.4 to 7.2 mmol/L
Two hours after meals: less than 180 mg/dL or 10 mmol/L
Before bedtime: 100 to 140 mg/dL or 5.6 to 7.8 mmol/L
If your result is within your target range most of the time, it means that your diabetes is well-controlled and that you are reducing your risk of complications.
If your result is too high or too low, it means that your diabetes is not well-controlled and that you may need to make some changes to your treatment plan.
High blood glucose, or hyperglycemia, occurs when your blood glucose level is above your target range. It can be caused by eating too much, taking too little insulin or medication, being sick or stressed, or having an infection. Symptoms of high blood glucose include:
Increased thirst and urination
Dry mouth and skin
Nausea and vomiting
If your blood glucose is slightly high, you may be able to lower it by drinking water, exercising, or taking extra insulin or medication as directed by your doctor. If your blood glucose is very high or stays high for a long time, you may need to seek medical attention, as it can lead to serious complications, such as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) or hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state (HHS).
Low blood glucose, or hypoglycemia, occurs when your blood glucose level is below your target range. It can be caused by taking too much insulin or medication, skipping or delaying meals, exercising more than usual, or drinking alcohol. Symptoms of low blood glucose include:
Shaking and sweating
Hunger and nausea
Dizziness and confusion
Weakness and fatigue
Irritability and mood swings
Headache and blurred vision
If your blood glucose is slightly low, you may be able to raise it by eating or drinking something that contains fast-acting carbohydrates, such as glucose tablets, juice, candy, or soda. If your blood glucose is very low or does not improve after eating or drinking something, you may need to seek medical attention, as it can lead to serious complications, such as seizures or coma.
Maintaining your glucometer
To ensure the proper functioning and accuracy of your glucometer, you need to:
Keep extra batteries on hand and replace them when needed.
Do not use expired test strips. They can give inaccurate results.
Store your glucometer and test strips in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat. Do not refrigerate them.
Test your glucometer with a control solution periodically. A control solution is a liquid that contains a known amount of glucose. It can help you check if your device and test strips are working correctly.
Clean your glucometer and lancing device regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Compare your glucometer results with lab test results occasionally to check their consistency. You can do this by taking your glucometer with you when you go for a lab test, giving a blood sample for the lab test from your arm, checking your blood glucose with your glucometer from your finger immediately after giving the sample, comparing the results and noting the difference.
What Precautions to Take While Using Glucometer: Summary
A glucometer is a device that you can use at home to measure your blood glucose levels. It can help you monitor your diabetes and adjust your treatment accordingly. However, to get accurate and reliable results, you need to take some precautions while using a glucometer.
You need to prepare the glucometer properly, choose a clean and comfortable sample site, test your blood glucose correctly, interpret your result wisely, and maintain your glucometer regularly.
You also need to consult your doctor or diabetes care team if you have any questions or concerns about testing your blood glucose level or managing your diabetes.