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Blood glucose monitoring

Blood glucose monitoring is a way of testing the concentration of glucose in the blood. This is done by pricking the skin to draw blood, then applying the blood onto a testing strip that is placed in a blood glucose meter. This device measures the glucose levels in your blood and gives you a reading.

An aim of diabetes management is to keep blood glucose levels (BGLs) within a specified target range. You need to balance your food with your physical activity, lifestyle and diabetes medication. Blood glucose monitoring can help you understand the link between blood glucose, food, exercise and insulin.

The pattern of changes in blood glucose levels can alert you and your health care team to a possible need for a change in how your diabetes is being managed.

Read more in our fact sheet Blood glucose monitoring.

How are you going with your diabetes health checks?

Regular checks can help prevent serious diabetes-related complications like problems with your feet, eyes, heart and kidneys. Individual members of your health care team will let you know how often you need checks, so you can schedule them into your calendar.

Monitoring your blood glucose levels

People who take insulin need to self-monitor their blood glucose levels. Your health professional will help you decide when and how often you should check your blood glucose levels, and your target range.

Blood glucose meters are usually sold as kits giving you all the equipment that you need to start. There are many types, offering different features and at different prices to meet individual needs. Most of these are available from pharmacies and some diabetes centres. You may also be able to purchase them from your local diabetes organisation if they have a shop.

People with diabetes registered on the NDSS will be eligible to receive a free blood glucose meter associated with their preferred new brand of blood glucose testing strips.

Your doctor or diabetes educator can help you choose the meter that’s best for you. Your diabetes educator or pharmacist can show you how to use your meter to get accurate results.

To find out which meters are suitable for NDSS-funded blood glucose testing strips, as well as how to get one of these meters, read the How to access a free blood glucose meter fact sheet.

Hot temperatures can cause blood glucose levels to fluctuate, so it’s a good idea to check more frequently and take immediate action if necessary.

How to monitor your blood glucose levels

To test your blood glucose levels, you prick your finger with the lancet and add a small drop of blood onto a testing strip. This strip is then inserted into the meter, which reads the strip and displays a number—your blood glucose level.

When and how often you should test your blood glucose levels varies depending on each individual, the type of diabetes and the tablets and/or insulin being used. Blood glucose levels are measured in millimoles per litre of blood (mmol/L). Your doctor or diabetes educator will help you decide how many tests are needed and the levels to aim for.

Keeping a record of your blood glucose levels can be very helpful for you and your doctor or diabetes educator. You can keep a diary or use a mobile phone app or website to record your levels.

Inconsistent readings

Sometimes you may get a lower or higher blood glucose reading than usual. This could be caused by a number of different things. You should contact your doctor or diabetes educator if you notice that your blood glucose patterns change or are consistently higher or lower than usual.

Getting accurate results

The best way to ensure accurate test results is to learn how to use and maintain your meter and equipment. You can also check that:

  • you’re using the right strip for the meter
  • the strips have not expired
  • you have stored your strips correctly.

You should also make sure you have washed your hands before testing. To check if your meter is working correctly, you can test it with a control solution. Your diabetes educator or pharmacist can help you.

How to access blood glucose testing strips

If you are registered on the NDSS and you use insulin, you are able to purchase subsidised blood glucose testing strips through the NDSS. If you have type 2 diabetes and do not use insulin, you are able to purchase an initial six-month subsidised supply of blood glucose testing strips.

This form allows access to testing strips after the initial six-month period provided by the scheme. Learn more about how to access blood glucose testing strips if you have type 2 diabetes and do not use insulin.

If you have type 2 diabetes and do not use insulin, you are able to purchase an initial six month subsidised supply of blood glucose testing strips.

Ketoacidosis

High blood glucose levels can put you at risk of a serious condition called ketoacidosis.

Read more about ketones and ketoacidosis.

Monitoring your blood glucose levels during pregnancy

Well-managed blood glucose levels at the time you conceive your baby and throughout pregnancy are important for your health and that of your baby.

Read more about blood glucose levels and pregnancy.

Sharps disposal

Needles from your finger-pricking device (lancets) should go into a special sharps container and not in your general rubbish. Syringes, insulin pen needles and used blood glucose testing strips must also be disposed of safely. Use an approved sharps container and make sure you keep it out of reach of children.

To find out where to get a sharps container and how to dispose of sharps, call the NDSS Helpline on 1300 136 588 or contact your:

  • local council health department
  • community health centre needle exchange program
  • local pharmacy, community health centre or public hospital.

Some local councils provide sharps containers free of charge. Discuss this with your health professional or call the NDSS Helpline on 1300 136 588.

Glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) test

The HbA1c test shows an average of your blood glucose level over the past 10-12 weeks. It does not replace the tests you do yourself but adds to the overall picture of your blood glucose management.

The goal for most people with diabetes will be ≤7%. This may need to be higher for some people, including children and the elderly. Your doctor or diabetes educator can help you decide on a target that is both appropriate and realistic for your individual circumstances.

You should also arrange this test with your doctor every 3-6 months.