Monitoring Your Blood Sugar Level

Why do I need to monitor my blood sugar level?

Monitoring your blood sugar (also called glucose) level can help you take better care of your diabetes. Checking your blood sugar will help you learn how food, activity levels, stress, medicine and insulin change your blood sugar level. This information will help you stay healthy and prevent or delay diabetic complications such as blindness and kidney failure. This handout will give you some tips on monitoring your blood sugar level.

What supplies do I need?

You will need a glucose meter, alcohol pads, and sterile finger lancets and test strips. Check with your health insurance plan to see if they will pay for these supplies.

How do I pick a glucose meter?

Check with your health insurance plan to see if they will pay for your glucose meter. If so, your plan may only pay for a certain meter.

If your insurance plan doesn't pay for glucose meters, ask your doctor which meters he or she recommends. Shop around and compare costs. Consider what features are important to you. For example, some meters are made for people who have poor eyesight. If you want to pay a little more money, you can get a meter that stores the results in its memory. This allows you to compare results from several days at one time. Other meters can be hooked up to your computer to analyze your results.

How do I measure my blood sugar level?

Follow your doctor's advice and the instructions that come with your glucose meter. In general, you will follow the steps below. Different glucose meters work differently, so be sure to check with your doctor for advice specifically for you.

  1. Wash your hands and dry them well before doing the test.
  2. Use an alcohol pad to clean the area that you're going to prick. With many glucose meters, you get a drop of blood from your fingertip. However, with some meters, you can also use your forearm, thigh or the fleshy part of your hand. Ask your doctor what area you should use with your meter.
  3. Prick yourself with a sterile lancet to get a drop of blood. (If you prick your fingertip, it may be easier and less painful to prick it on one side, not on the pad.)
  4. Place the drop of blood on the test strip.
  5. Follow the instructions for inserting the test strip into the glucose meter.
  6. The meter will give you a number for your blood sugar level.

What if I can't get a drop of blood?

If you get blood from your fingertip, try washing your hands in hot water to get the blood flowing. Then dangle your hand below your heart for a minute. Prick your finger quickly and then put your hand back down below your heart. You might also try slowly squeezing the finger from the base to the tip.

What do I do with the results?

Write down the results in a record book (see sample below). You can use a small notebook or ask your doctor for a blood testing record book. You may also want to keep track of what you have eaten, when you took medicine or insulin, and how active you have been during the day. This will help you see how these things affect your blood sugar. Talk with your doctor about what is a good range for your blood sugar level and what to do if your blood sugar is not within that range.

Record book example

How often should I check my blood sugar level?

It is important to monitor your blood sugar on a regular basis. Ask your doctor how often you should check your blood sugar level and at what time of day. Many people start by checking their blood sugar 2 times a day: before breakfast and before supper. After a few weeks, some people are able to measure their blood sugar level only 2 or 3 times a week.

Is there another way to check my blood sugar at home?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved meters that work without pricking your finger. But these meters cannot replace regular glucose meters. They are used to get additional readings between regular testing.

More Information

For more information talk to your doctor.

Other Organizations


Written by editorial staff.

This handout was developed by the American Academy of Family Physicians in cooperation with the American Diabetes Association.

Reviewed/Updated: 11/06
Created: 03/99