6 ways to get better readings from your diabetic monitor

Getting accurate blood glucose results is critical for anyone managing diabetes. So when Dr. Nimalie Perera of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, Australia compared the blood glucose meter readings from 102 women to a more precise lab test, the results were alarming.

Dr. Perera discovered that the patients' diabetic monitor results frequently differed from hospital lab results, in some cases by as much as 16 percent. Even the most accurate test strips were off by six percent. That's still well within the 20-percent margin allowed by current FDA standards, but leaves enough room for error to cause concern.

The importance of accurate blood sugar readings

All of the women in the study were pregnant and many had developed gestational diabetes. Keeping blood glucose levels in check is particularly important for pregnant women, since diabetes puts them at greater risk for miscarriage, difficult labor and heavier babies.

Still, all people with diabetes can learn from these results. Research suggests that testing blood sugar on your own, on a regular basis, is key to diabetes management success. Those on-the-spot readings are necessary to plan meals, adjust for activity and tweak insulin doses. Meters also store their readings, so doctors can track their patients' blood glucose levels and habits.

If a diabetic monitor is providing inaccurate readings, people may give themselves inaccurate doses of insulin or otherwise adjust their treatment incorrectly. Then the diabetic monitor's stored readings are incorrect, and doctors may not be able to give patients the best advice and treatment.

Tips for testing blood sugar: Getting more out of your diabetic monitor

Here are six tips for using your blood glucose monitor and getting the best results:

  1. Read the manual.
  2. Work with your doctor, diabetes educator or a pharmacist to practice using your monitor.
  3. Always wash hands with warm soapy water for 15 seconds before testing.
  4. Get your meter, lancing device, needle, test strips, log book and a pen together before you test.
  5. Test the side of your finger, rather than the tip--there are fewer nerves there.
  6. Write down your test results in a blood sugar diary, even if your meter keeps track.

No matter how much you practice, sometimes it just comes down to complicated technology--and our inability to master it. So, if you're still having trouble with your blood sugar monitor, don't hesitate to find a new one. Ask around for recommendations and don't settle until you find a meter that you're absolutely comfortable using.

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