Diabetes occurs when there is too much sugar in the blood, or high blood glucose. Glucose is a sugar that the cells in the body use for energy. A diabetic’s pancreas does not make any insulin or it does not make enough to keep up with the body’s demands. You may also be insulin resistant, which means that the body cannot use insulin correctly.
The exact causes of diabetes are unknown. However, there are several factors that are associated with the risk for Type 2 Diabetes. Some risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure, family history, gestational diabetes, certain racial and ethnic groups or if you are 45 years and older.
Insulin is a hormone that is released when the body has digested food. It works like a key, unlocking your body’s cells so sugar can move from your blood into your cells. When the body is unable to make insulin or use it effectively, sugar builds up in the bloodstream.
A blood sugar level that is too high can lead to serious complications. If left untreated over many years, high blood sugar levels can damage nerves and effect your heart, eyes, teeth/gums, kidneys, skin and feet, as well as things like sexual function and digestion. Low blood sugar levels can also cause these symptoms.
Testing Your Blood Sugar
You’ll need a blood sugar meter, if you do not have one. Drug stores have many to choose from and instructions on how to use them. You’ll also need test strips, a special needle called a lancet and a lancing device to hold the needle. The test is fast, easy and relatively painless. The meter “reads” your blood sugar level, which shows up as a number on the screen. If you have further questions, call your doctor.
When to Test
How often to test, depends on what type of diabetes you have and your individual treatment plan. If you have Type 1 diabetes, your doctor may recommend testing at least three times a day and more often if you have any change in routine, such as traveling, exercising more than normal or eating less than usual. If you take medication, either alone or with insulin to manage Type 2 diabetes, your doctor may recommend testing once a day. If you manage Type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise alone, you may need to test even less often. Your doctor will help you establish the most effective monitoring schedule.
What Type Are You?
Type 1 (Formerly insulin-dependent or juvenile onset diabetes): About 10% of people with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes. The pancreas does not make any insulin, which is needed daily. Type 1 diabetes usually occurs before the age of 20.
Type 2 (Formerly non-insulin-dependent or adult onset diabetes): About 90% of people with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes. Pancreas produces some insulin, at least initially, but the cells are unable to use it correctly. Type 2 diabetes usually occurs in overweight people over 45 years of age. It may be managed by diet and exercise alone. In many cases oral medication or insulin may be needed if blood sugar level remains high.
Gestational Diabetes (Diabetes during pregnancy): Hormones of pregnancy causes insulin resistance. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born, but it increases the risk for developing diabetes later in life.
How to Check Your Blood Sugar
Blood sugar testing is usually done with a needle called a lancet and an electric glucose monitor.
Step 1: Your Tools
1. Lancing Device
2. Glucose Monitor
3. Vial Containing Test Strips
Step 2: Wash Hands
Wash your hands with soap and warm water. Dry them completely. If you don’t have access to soap and warm water, use an alcohol pad to clean the area you plan to stick.
Step 3: Test Strip
Remove a test strip from its container and fully insert the test strip into the monitor.
Step 4: Prick Finger
Place the lancet on the side of your fingertip to avoid making the frequently used part of your finger sore. Press the button to discharge the lancet.
Step 5: Strip to Blood
Touch drop of blood with the test strip. The blood will be absorbed by the wicking action of the test strip.
Step 6: View Results
Within a few seconds, the monitor displays your blood glucose level on a screen. If you think something’s not right, do a quality control test according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Step 7: Record Results
Each time you do a blood test, log your results. Record the date, time, test results, medication and dosage, and diet and exercise information.