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Homepage / About diabetes / Treating diabetes / Glucose monitoring

Glucose monitoring

Glucose meter held in the palm of a handSome people with diabetes are encouraged to monitor their own blood glucose level several times each day to ensure it stays within a target range. This is done to provide feedback on the effects of food and physical activity, and to adjust insulin or other diabetes medications. In addition, glucose monitoring is also important during periods of illness, and to check fitness to drive.

Blood glucose is tested by pricking the finger to produce a small drop of blood. Blood is then placed on a disposable testing strip that is inserted into a meter.  The meter then displays the blood glucose level. Some meters record results, which can be helpful for monitoring the trend over a period of time. Members of the diabetes healthcare team can advise on which monitoring device is most suited to the person’s needs.

The recommended frequency of testing will vary according to the person’s usual level of blood glucose control, and whether or not testing is required to manage use of insulin or other diabetes medications. Guidelines about who should test and when testing should be done can be downloaded from the link at the bottom of the page. 

When testing blood glucose, blood is usually taken from the finger tips although some meters allow use of other parts of the body. The hands should be thoroughly washed first to ensure there is no sugar contaminating the skin which will interfere with the measurement.  Warming the hands can also make it easier to draw a good sample.

Sharp devices such as lancets and needles should be disposed of safely in a sharps container.

Urine Testing

Some people prefer not to monitor their blood glucose, and choose to test their urine for glucose instead. This method is less accurate than testing blood because glucose is only present in the urine when the blood glucose level is relaitvely high (over 10 mmol/litre). This means that urine testing cannot be used to detect periods when blood glucose levels are too low (hypoglycaemia).

Ketone Testing
‘Ketones’ are produced when the body breaks down stored fat to produce energy. This happens when glucose, the body’s preferred energy source, is either absent or cannot be used properly. People with diabetes may be advised to test their urine for ketones because the presence of ketones in the urine is a sign of poor blood glucose control. Ketone testing is particularly important for people who take insulin, and during periods of illness, when symptoms of high blood glucose may not be recognised.


Guidelines for self-monitoring of blood glucose (PDF Format)



Driving and diabetes

Driving and diabetes
Depending on how their condition is treated, people with diabetes need to make special arrangements in order to be able to drive a car or motorbike in the UK.

Glossary of terms

Glossary of terms
An A-to-Z guide to the medical terms used on this website