Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Equipment to test blood sugar levels.

Equipment to test blood sugar levels.
beginning of content

Diabetes testing and monitoring

5-minute read

If you have diabetes, blood glucose monitoring can help you keep your glucose levels within a target range by balancing food, exercise and insulin, reducing your chances of diabetes complications. A range of testing and monitoring equipment is available to help people manage their diabetes. Your doctor or diabetes nurse or educator can advise you on the most appropriate equipment for you and your situation.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommends that if you have type 2 diabetes and take oral medication only, you should talk to your doctor or specialist about the need to test your blood sugar levels at home, as most people in this situation do not need to do this type of monitoring. For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.

Blood sugar testing equipment

Testing your blood glucose (blood sugar) level is the only accurate way of knowing whether it is too high or low. You cannot accurately judge your blood sugar level just by how you feel.

You can check your blood sugar level using the following equipment:

  • Blood glucose meter — a finger-prick device is used to draw a drop of blood from your finger, which you put on a special stick. You then use the meter to see how much glucose is in the blood.
  • Flash glucose monitoring — this system uses sensor technology to test glucose levels without needing to prick a finger. A sensor worn on the back of the arm connects to a reader or mobile phone application, which stores your glucose levels day and night.
  • Continuous glucose monitoring device (CGM) — a sensor is placed under the skin, which measures your glucose levels 24 hours a day. CGM is useful for people who have ongoing problems controlling their blood sugar level. The cost, including consumables (sensors), is around $5,000 per year.

The Australian Government provides access to subsidised continuous and flash glucose monitoring products through the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS).

Products that are subsidised by the NDSS, such as needles, syringes, blood glucose monitoring strips, urine monitoring strips and insulin pump consumables, are available from NDSS Access Points, usually your local community pharmacy.

Ketone testing equipment

Not all people with diabetes need to test for ketones. Mostly it is for patients using insulin. Your doctor or diabetes nurse or educator will advise if you need to or not.

If you need to test for ketones, you can use:

  • Testing strips or sticks — these are dipped into your urine and change colour to show the amount of ketones in your body.
  • Blood test meters — these test for ketones in your blood, and work in a similar way to blood glucose testing.

Problems with testing and monitoring equipment

If you have a problem using your diabetes equipment, or if it breaks or becomes faulty, refer to the manufacturer’s user manual or contact its customer care department. Your doctor, diabetes nurse or educator or pharmacist will also be able to advise you.

Blood glucose meters

Blood glucose meters can stop working properly if:

  • the meter gets old, too hot, damp or dirty
  • the batteries need replacing or recharging
  • the testing strips are out of date
  • the calibration code is incorrect
  • you are using the wrong strip for the meter
  • there isn't enough blood on the strip or the strip has been put into the meter the wrong way
  • there was something sweet on your hands before you did the test

To avoid problems with your blood glucose meter:

  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions on caring for and using the device correctly.
  • Before testing, wash your hands with soap then rinse and dry them, as dirt can cause an inaccurate reading.
  • Don’t use wet wipes to clean your hands since they may contain chemicals such as glycerine, which can cause an inaccurate reading.
  • Always check you have the right strip for the meter and that is has been put into the meter the right way.
  • Each time you visit your doctor or diabetes nurse or educator, use your device while there and see if the readings it gives you match the readings taken by the doctor.

Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM)

When using CGM, the sensor must be removed and a new one placed in a different part of the body once a week.

Regularly check your blood sugar level using a finger prick blood test to ensure your CGM is measuring properly (i.e. make sure the readings match).

Flash glucose monitoring

It is important to ensure your skin is clean and dry before applying the flash glucose monitor or it may not work correctly. Tips using flash glucose monitoring correctly can be found here.

Other equipment problems

Other equipment problems

  • Battery failure — batteries for diabetes equipment can usually be bought from any shop that sells a range of batteries. Check the meter instruction manual for the type of battery needed and how to replace it.
  • Running out of blood glucose or urine test strips — subsidised testing strips are available on the NDSS but can also be bought from a pharmacy in an emergency.
  • Incorrect readings — if you are worried that your meter is not giving correct readings, reset it by following the instructions in the user manual. If you are still worried, contact the manufacturer’s helpline.

Managing my diabetes - video

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2020

Back To Top

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Type 1 diabetes blood glucose monitoring | Diabetes NSW & ACT

Understand why blood glucose monitoring is important to your health and how it helps to ensure your blood glucose levels stay in the target range. Read more

Read more on Diabetes NSW and ACT website

Managing your diabetes - Diabetes Australia

Learn more about how to manage:

Read more on Diabetes Australia website

Continuous glucose monitoring - Diabetes Australia

Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) is a means of measuring glucose levels continuously in order to gain insight into patterns and trends in glucose levels

Read more on Diabetes Australia website

General Treatments

Definitions of some services covered under General treatment private health insurance in Australia.

Read more on Commonwealth Ombudsman website

HbA1c test results and diabetes -

The HbA1c (glycated haemoglobin) test is a useful, simple and inexpensive blood test that can be used to diagnose diabetes and also to monitor blood glucose control in people with known diabetes.

Read more on myDr website

Living at home | Vision Australia. Blindness and low vision services

Living at home independently requires some important considerations and organisation around your home.Different strategies work for different people, but some of the areas that might make your home more comfortable for you include:Lighting - bigger, bolder, brighterGood lighting needs to be bright enough to allow you to perform required tasks; provide even light across the area to prevent shadows; and be free from direct or indirect glare.Make the most of your vision with the principles; bigger, bolder, brighter.

Read more on Vision Australia website

The latest research on COVID-19 | Diabetes NSW & ACT

You may have seen headlines such as “Quarter of COVID-19 deaths in English hospitals were of diabetics” or “COVID-19: people with type 1 diabetes more

Read more on Diabetes NSW and ACT website

Hyperglycaemia - Better Health Channel

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Everyday illness | Diabetes Victoria

When you are sick your body releases stress hormones to help you fight the illness, infection or stress

Read more on Diabetes Victoria website

Helicobacter pylori test: simple test for stomach germ -

Helicobacter pylori infection of the stomach can be diagnosed using several different tests, including a breath test.

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.