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Diabetic Testing

Diabetes is a condition which effects nearly 1 in 8 patients in the state of Delaware.1 In order to recognize patients who may be at risk for diabetes or to help those already diagnosed manage their diabetes, blood glucose testing is often performed. Blood glucose testing reveals how much sugar is present in the blood at that particular time. Glucose is a type of sugar that the body prefers for its source of energy. This sugar is broken down from foods that contain carbohydrates such as breads, sweets, and fruit to name a few. The ability to control glucose levels in the blood depends on the body’s capability to produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that is released when the body senses a rise in blood glucose after a meal.2 Problems arise when the body does not produce enough insulin or the body does not respond to insulin as it should. It is necessary to test blood glucose levels, because prolonged uncontrolled blood glucose levels can cause damage to nerves, blood vessels, eyesight, skin, and in severe cases may lead to death.
To determine if a patient is diabetic, a blood glucose test is done after a fasting period of 8 hours to identify how well the body is controlling the blood sugar levels. The American Diabetic Association (ADA) has determined that a normal blood sugar level after an 8 hour fast should be below 110 mg/dL. Along with other tests, diabetes can also be diagnosed by an HbA1C level of >6.5. This test measures the blood sugar level based on an average of 3 months. For individuals who have already been diagnosed with diabetes, the range that the ADA recommends is to keep the blood sugar level between 80-130 mg/dL before a meal is consumed and to keep the level less than 140 mg/dL after a meal.
To test blood glucose levels, an individual will need several items to perform the test correctly. The patient will need a meter (glucometer), a test strip specific to the meter, a lancet and lancet device, an alcohol swab, a bandage if necessary, and a special container to dispose of the lancet after use. It should be noted that there are several different manufacturers available (i.e. Accu-Check, Freestyle and One Touch) that provide meters, and it is recommended that the consult with their physician or pharmacist to choose the best one that suits their lifestyle or that may be covered by the patient’s insurance.
When it is time to test the blood glucose level, first prepare the meter by ensuring the device is properly working by inserting the appropriate test strip into the device. If the device is working correctly, the screen should turn on with the appropriate display asking for a sample. Be sure to insert the end of the test strip containing the chip directly into the device and the other end for the blood sample exposed. Note that each meter and strips are unique to each manufacturer, so please refer to your pharmacist or provider to ensure appropriate device usage. Once the device is prepared, the patient will first clean their hands with soap and warm water or may use an alcohol swab to adequately sanitize the finger being tested. Once the finger is completely dry, the patient will use the lancet on the side of the finger away from the nailbed on their non-dominant hand. It may be necessary to hang the arm down to the side or rub the finger for a few seconds to allow proper blood flow to the area before activating the lancet. This will help ensure that an adequate blood sample is produced. Once the blood sample is obtained, gently move the strip that has been inserted correctly into the activated meter against the drop of blood. The strip will draw up the sample and the device will begin to calculate the patient’s blood glucose level. After a few seconds, the meter will display the patient’s results on the screen. Please be sure to use a new test strip and lancet for each test performed.
The results from the test will tell the patient what action needs to be taken. If the patient is on an insulin regimen, they will use those numbers to adjust what dosage of insulin is required prior to a meal. For further information on how to select an appropriate device, proper blood glucose testing administration, or other questions pertaining to the management of diabetes please consult your physician or local pharmacist.