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How to test for hypoglycemia at home?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on Nov 10, 2021.

Official answer

by Drugs.com

You will need a blood glucose meter if you want to test your blood glucose levels for hypoglycemia at home. These are available online or at your local drug store and are safe, easy, and quick to use. There are lots of different types of meters and they can vary in their portability, speed, size, cost, and readability (with larger displays or spoken instructions if you have vision problems). Most devices deliver results in less than 15 seconds and store this information for future use.

Blood glucose meters are a useful way to test how low or high your blood glucose levels are because diabetes does not always cause symptoms, especially in the early stages.

To test your blood sugar levels at home you will need to:

  • First wash and dry your hands well
  • Insert a test strip into your meter
  • Prick your finger with a small, sharp needle called a lancet, then gently squeeze and massage your finger until a drop of blood forms. Touch and hold the end of the test strip to the drop of blood
  • The meter will display your blood glucose level on a screen after a few seconds
  • Most blood glucose meters keep a record of your readings, but you can write them down as well so you can tell your doctor
  • Based on your results, the two of you may adjust your diet, exercise, or medication.

Some meters may also calculate an average blood sugar level over time. Some also feature software kits that take information from the meter and display graphs and charts of your past test results. Blood sugar meters and strips are available at your local pharmacy.

Some insulin pumps have an inbuilt blood glucose meter called an “interstitial glucose measuring device” which consists of a tiny sensor placed under your skin. Although they are not as accurate as finger-stick glucose results, they can help you find patterns and trends in your sugar levels because they check blood sugar levels every 5 minutes.

When should you test for hypoglycemia at home?

Your doctor may tell you to test 3 to 5 times a day, over the course of several days, to get an idea of how your medication for diabetes is working. You should also test if you suspect your diabetes is not being well controlled, if you are unwell, or if you have recently changed medicines. Testing several times a day allows you to see any fluctuations in your blood sugar readings. Usual times to test include:

  • First thing in the morning, before you eat or drink anything. This provides a baseline number and can give clues about how you process glucose during the day and if your blood glucose readings drop too low at night
  • Before a meal: Blood glucose levels before a meal tend to be low, so a high blood glucose reading at this time suggests your blood sugar management is not that great or the dose of your medication is maybe too low
  • After a meal: Post-meal testing gives a good idea about how the body reacts to food, and if glucose can reach the cells efficiently. Most doctors recommend testing about 2 hours after a meal.

What are the symptoms of hypoglycemia?

Symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) include:

  • Anxiety
  • Blurred vision
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Hunger
  • Light-headedness
  • Sweating
  • Tremor or shaking
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Weakness.


References
  • Home Blood Sugar Testing Web MD. 2021. https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/home-blood-glucose-testing

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