testing-your-blood-sugarAnyone who has diabetes knows the drawbacks of monitoring blood glucose (BG). Pain, inconvenience, cost, and fear of needles, are a few reasons BG monitoring is avoided. As many as 67% of persons with diabetes do not routinely self-monitor their BG. Certainly no one would disagree that the drawbacks to BG monitoring are valid. When deciding to begin or change a behavior there needs to be more pros for the action than cons.

Let's explore the reasons and attitudes that can lead to more routine BG monitoring.

Cause and Effect or Reflect and Respond. BG changes regularly, and some daily events often have the biggest impact. Meals and snacks, exercise, medication, stress, and illness are the most common causes of BG fluctuation. Choosing one situation known to affect BG--for example, before and after one meal--can seem less daunting then testing before and after every meal. Making decisions about what to eat or how much can be made easier with BG outcome information. (A normal rise in BG after a meal is up to 40 points.)

Knowing how exercise effects your BG will help you anticipate whether you should wait to take a walk after eating or if you can safely exercise anytime of the day.

What's my baseline? If BG is never checked then an occasional or random BG check has little meaning. 'Is this my normal BG?' Without the answer it is difficult to determine cause and effect of  special circumstances such as stress, illness, or medication changes. Consider gathering information once a day for three days and take an average. All other circumstances will now have a comparison value.

Trends. Lifestyle modifications and taking medication as prescibed are important tasks in diabetes management. When these efforts are made, tracking the outcome on BG can reinforce good behavior. While it can take weeks to see a downward trend in a fasting blood glucose, recognizing it is encouraging and if no change is noted, you now have a  topic for discussion with your doctor.

Unexpected consequences. Studies have shown persons with diabetes who do not routinely measure BG have higher rates of hospitalizations. Catching high or low BG provides the opportunity to treat the unexpected or call your doctor for urgent advice. Unknown high BG can go undetected and symptoms such as fatigue and frequent urination are often blamed on other causes or are ignored. Missing downward trends can lead to dangerous and sometimes fatal lows. Timely information and decisions can keep hospitalizations at a minimum.

Expense of monitoring. For some people, cost can be a big factor in monitoring. However, many pharmacies now offer  generic meters and strips at fairly low prices to help the financial burden for uninsured or underinsured people. Meter companies often offer coupons or discounts. And you can find 1-800 phone numbers on the back of meters.

Some insurances cover monitoring supplies under 'durable goods.' How your insurance is billed may make a difference. Always let your provider know when financial hardship impacts your monitoring or medication decisions.

Alternate site testing: is it right for me? When sore fingers lead to less testing, you can try sites such as the palm or forearm. Lancets often come with a clear top meant to be used with alternate site monitoring. Do not choose these sites at times when BG may be changing such as following a meal, after exercise, or if you suspect your BG is falling.
If finger pain is a deterant, double check to be sure the skin is taut, the lancet is fresh, and the sides verses the pad of fingers are used.

A meter is a tool in your toolbox. Monitoring BG gives a measure to help make decisions and predict outcomes. BG information helps provide a piece of a personal diabetes puzzle. When there is enough value to doing the undesireable, and the pros outweigh the cons, positive change takes place. Small steps can lead to great places.