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 glucose monitoring products through the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS).
Products that are subsidised by the NDSS, such as needles, syringes, blood glucose test strips, urine test 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
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Last reviewed: July 2020