Learn how to use a diabetes test machine

Regular checks on your blood sugar level is an important part of diabetes care. You can do this easily, at home, using a portable, hand-held device known as a glucometer. A glucometer helps you to track your blood sugar level and thus adjust your food, medication, and exercise over time. 

How does a glucometer track your blood sugar level?

The meter detects the amount of blood in a small blood sample (usually from your fingertip). The blood is collected on a disposable test strip which is inserted into the slot of the glucometer. The glucometer then displays the blood sugar level on the screen within a few seconds.

Who should use a blood glucose monitor and when?

Patients suffering from Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA) or gestational diabetes during pregnancy should regularly test their blood sugar with a glucometer as part of their treatment plan. Frequent use can help you to recognize patterns and identify when you’re likely to have a spike or crash in glucose level. Your testing frequency will depend upon the type of diabetes and your treatment plan.

How do you use a glucometer?

Learning how to use a blood glucose test strip at home, can make diabetic care simpler and help you determine how well your medication is working and how much insulin you may need to inject. While your nurse or pharmacist can guide you best on the details, you may refer to the following instructions to prepare yourself in advance. 

Following are the basic steps to use a glucometer or an insulin syringe:

1. Buy a blood glucose testing kit: A blood sugar testing kit is available at any drugstore. The kit most often consists of lancets (testing needles), a lancing device, test strips, and a meter.  

2. Get familiarized: Read the instruction manual that comes with your kit. Get familiarized with the functioning of the glucometer and what steps you’ll have to follow for optimum results. Contact your doctor in case of any doubts.

3. Calibration: Most blood sugar testing kits include a method of testing to make sure that the glucometer is working correctly. This may be in the form of a premade test strip (code strip) or a liquid you place on the test strip. These are inserted into the meter and the reading displayed on the screen should be within acceptable limits (which would be mentioned on the code strip or the bottle of the control liquid). Each time you open a new box of test strips, the meter has to be recalibrated.

4. Preparation: Wash your hands thoroughly to prevent infection. Dry them well as wet hands can dilute the blood sample resulting in lower reading. Then insert a test strip into the sugar check machine. This will turn the meter on. Watch the indicator for placing blood on the strip.

5. Test your blood sample: Adjust the depth of the lancet according to your requirements. Prick your finger with the lancing device. Once the blood forms a bead on your finger, you may place it on the strip. Some meters come with strips that draw the blood through capillary action, while others require you to drop the blood onto the strip.

6. Results: The glucometer will display your blood sugar level within a few seconds. Once you have set a plan for yourself regarding diabetes care, you can work towards managing your sugar levels accordingly.

7. Jot down the results: While some glucometers, come with inbuilt memory that store the results for some time, it is advisable to maintain a diary to track your readings. This would make it easier for you and your doctor to get a good picture of how your treatment is working. 

8. Cleaning up the supplies: Remove the lancet and throw it into a puncture-proof container with a lid. Discard the used test strip. Store your lancet and other supplies safely, away from kids and pets. Wash your hands again with soap and water

Handy tips:

1. If you find the process of pricking very painful, it means, that the lancet gauge is not adjusted according to your skin thickness. Lancets come with varying gauges. A higher gauge indicates a thinner lancet.

2. Lancing devices also have a setting to adjust the depth. This will help you predict how far the lancet will penetrate your skin. 

3. Use only the test strips that are designed for your glucometer.

4. Ensure that you have a spare stock of the batteries that fit your glucometer. Running to the store when you run out of supplies would not be feasible all the time.

5. Always check whether the test strips have not crossed their expiry date to prevent inaccurate results.

6. Always close the lid of the box containing the test strips as too much light or moisture can damage the strips.

7. Dispose of your lancets in a puncture-proof container and keep it away from kids and pets.

8. While traveling, keep a stash of fast-acting carbohydrate snacks, extra insulin or additional medication to use in case of emergency.