Self-testing of blood glucose with a blood glucose meter is the backbone of diabetes management. Results from the DCCT and the UKPDS indicate that people with diabetes should be more aggressive in their daily monitoring of blood glucose levels if they want to reduce their risk of diabetes complications. This means not only more frequent blood glucose testing but also adjusting your diet, exercise, and doses of insulin or oral medications according to the results of your tests.

A logbook is often included with the purchase of a blood glucose meter to help you keep an accurate record of each blood test result. Some meters can download your readings onto a computer, and this is an excellent way to evaluate your results and share them with your doctor. Some meters can record, chart, and graph the results for you. When you display the downloaded information on a printout, it may be easier for you to notice patterns that affect control of your diabetes. For example, you may find that unexpected fluctuations in your blood glucose readings are caused by simple changes in your usual routine such as unusually large or small meals, variations in exercise, or mental stress.

According to our sister publication Diabetes Focus Summer 2014, automated text message reminders to check blood sugar helped to improve a1c levels in a small Chicago-based study of people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Seventy-four study participants—whose average age was 53 and were predominantly African-American—signed up for a service through their health care plan to receive three to four automated texts per day for six months.

At the end of the study, average hemoglobin a1c readings went from 7.9 percent to 7.2 percent. If you have diabetes, your blood sugar is considered moderately controlled between 7 and 8 percent and well-controlled below 7 percent.

Urine glucose testing

Testing urine for the presence of glucose is far less accurate than blood glucose monitoring and is not recommended.

Ketone testing

This testing is necessary only for people with type 1 diabetes and is done to detect early signs of ketoacidosis when a glucose meter indicates that blood glucose levels are higher than 250 mg/dL. You can easily measure your ketone levels by placing a ketone test strip or tablet in a urine sample and examining it for a color change.

Home monitors that test blood for ketones are also available but may not be covered by health insurance. Although ketones show up in the blood more quickly than they appear in urine, the American Diabetes Association recommends either testing technique.

Call your doctor immediately if a ketone test is strongly positive or if you have symptoms that suggest ketoacidosis—fruity breath, nausea, vomiting, or difficulty concentrating.

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: Written by: Christopher D. Saudek, M.D.; Simeon Margolis, M.D., Ph.D.

Published: 20 Apr 2009

Last Modified: 11 Sep 2015