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What is blood sugar and why is it important?
Blood Sugar Monitors are an important tool in helping Seniors affected by Diabetes. This article will help you understand the importance of testing your Blood Sugar
Blood sugar levels, which can also be referred to as blood glucose levels, are a measurement of the quantities of glucose present within the blood. Blood sugar levels fluctuate throughout the day based on the ingestion of food and drink. For those who have diabetes, these fluctuations are larger and can occur more frequently in a given period.
There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2, which differ in the mechanisms that cause them and how they are managed.
Type 1 Diabetes
This type of diabetes is caused by an inability to produce a hormone called insulin which is essential for allowing glucose to enter your cells and fuel your body. The dysfunction in insulin creation occurs due to the attacking of the cells in the pancreas by your body’s immune system.
When you have this type of diabetes, your body will down food as normal and will turn carbohydrates into glucose. The glucose will then enter the blood and due to the lack of insulin, the glucose won’t be able to enter the cells. Consequently, glucose levels build up within the blood which causes high blood sugar levels.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is caused by a lack of insulin production by the pancreas or the creation of insulin that does not function properly. This can lead to the build-up of glucose within the blood as insulin is essential for glucose to be transported into cells. This build-up of glucose causes high blood sugar levels.
High blood sugar – what are the risks?
- Cardiovascular disease
- Nerve damage
- Kidney damage
- Damage to blood vessels with the retina (diabetic retinopathy), which can lead to blindness
- Clouding of the eye lens (cataract)
- Bone and joint problems
- Teeth and gum infections
- Diabetic ketoacidosis
This can occur when there isn’t enough insulin in your body which leads to a build-up of glucose within the blood. The lack of glucose in your cells leads to the body breaking down fat for energy and in doing so, produces toxic acids called ketones. The accumulation of ketones in the blood can lead to them ‘spilling over’ into the urine. If this is left untreated, it can lead to a diabetic coma and has life-threatening implications.
Hyperglycemic hyperosmolar state
This occurs when the insulin produced by your body doesn’t work properly and so leads to a build-up of glucose within the blood. The excess glucose is then “spilled over” into the urine and can cause increased urination. If untreated, this can lead to life-threatening dehydration and coma.
When to test your blood sugar
Your doctor will recommend how frequently, and at which points during the day you should test your blood sugar. The following information is a brief guide to when to test your blood sugar based on the type of diabetes that you have.
Type 1 Diabetes
You may need to test:
- Before mealtimes and snacks
- Before, after and during exercise
- Before bed
- During the night
- More frequently if you are unwell
- More frequently if your daily routines are changed
- More frequently if you start a new medication
Type 2 Diabetes
The frequency at which you test your blood sugar will be dependent on the type of insulin that you use and so, you should closely follow your doctor’s advice. As a rough guide, blood sugar testing is recommended before meals and bedtime. If you manage your diabetes with your lifestyle alone, you may not need to measure your blood sugar levels daily.
Methods for testing your blood sugar
One method of testing your blood sugar is to use a monitor and test strips. This blood sugar testing kit will consist of a lancet (to prick your finger with), a digital display and a test strip insertion site. Your doctor will guide you in how to do this test. Always follow their guidance properly to ensure the reliability of your results. Usually, the test strip is placed in the meter and then place against the blood (from where you pricked your finger). The meter will then measure the glucose in the sample and give you a reading.
Flash glucose monitor
For those who want a blood sugar tester without a needle, this method of monitoring may be a good option. The flash system consists of a sensor that is placed in the arm and a reader which can interpret your blood sugar levels. This method is also referred to as a 14-day diabetes tester as each sensor usually lasts 14 days. The sensor works by reading the blood sugar levels in interstitial fluid, which is the fluid under your skin. You may still have to do finger-prick tests and will have to use the reader to interpret your results.
Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM)
With CGM, you wear a small sensor on your body continuously which automatically reads your blood sugar levels throughout the day. This method is usually referred to as a diabetes tester for the arm. The results from CGM are usually can be read from your mobile, or another device. The sensor can be rigged to sound an alarm if your blood sugar levels are too high or too low also. This method of monitoring blood sugar levels is good for someone in which completing the finger prick test is not viable and enables easy sharing of results with caregivers. This diabetic blood tester is portable and so would provide minimum disturbance to your everyday routines.
It may be recommended by your doctor to test for ketones at regular intervals to manage the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis. A ketone blood tester usually comes in the form of a finger-prick test and works in a similar way. This method is considered the best and most accurate ketone blood tester.
The type of diabetes blood sugar tester that you use will depend on how often you must take readings, the types of diabetes that you have and the treatment that you have. Your doctor will decide which method is best for you and will show you how to take your readings.