There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Both types affect the way that the body regulates blood sugar. The body’s cells need glucose. Insulin helps glucose enter the cells. The bodies of people with Type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin, whereas the bodies of people with Type 2 diabetes don’t respond to insulin as they should, and later do not make enough insulin.
Both types can lead to chronically high blood sugar levels, which if not managed, can lead to symptoms such as urinating frequently, feeling very hungry and thirsty, feeling fatigued, and having cuts or sores that don’t heal properly. People with both types of diabetes can also experience irritability, mood swings, and unintentional weight loss.
For both types of diabetes, blood glucose monitoring is an important way of managing your diabetes. You can test your blood sugar at home using a blood sugar meter or a continuous blood glucose monitor, like FreeStyle Libre. Blood glucose testing identifies whether blood glucose levels are high or low, monitors the effect of diabetes medication, and helps you understand how other factors such as illness or stress affect blood sugar levels.
How many times a day you should test and when you should test depends on the type of diabetes you have, your medications, and your risk for having low blood glucose levels.
For Type 1 diabetes, it is recommended people check their blood glucose every 4 hours at the least. If they are exercising or partaking in any activity that can fluctuate their blood pressure, they must check blood sugar levels more frequently. If you’re travelling, especially if you are driving, you should check your blood glucose monitor every 2 hours.
You should also test before breastfeeding and every hour if you are experiencing hypoglycemia episodes. Daily, you should check before meals and snacks, before and after exercise, and before sleeping. If you’re ill, starting a new medication, or your daily routine has changed, you should check more often.
If you have Type 2 diabetes and take insulin to manage your diabetes, your doctor may prescribe testing your blood sugar several times a day. You should check before meals, 1-2 hours after a meal, at night before sleeping, and late at night/early in the morning if required. Although it’s inconvenient to check your glucose levels at 2am, checks are sometimes necessary to screen for hypoglycemia as it’s common to not feel the low blood sugar and sleep through a hypoglycemia event.
You should also check before, during, and after exercise and before driving, and when blood glucose levels can be higher, such as after consuming alcohol or during an illness. If you are taking multiple daily insulin injections, testing is extremely important. If you manage Type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise alone, you may not need to test your blood glucose levels as often.