Did you just find out that you have diabetes? If you’ve been feeling bad for a while, you should know that getting your diabetes under control will not only improve your health and help avoid complications over time — it can help you feel better now.
When your blood sugar (glucose) level is close to normal, you will find that you:
- Are less tired
- Are less thirsty
- Need a restroom break less often
- Have less trouble concentrating
A management plan is critical if you have diabetes. The first step in a diabetes management plan is to check your blood sugar level each day.
How to Check Blood Sugar
A common way to test your blood sugar level is to use a blood glucose meter, a small device that reads your blood sugar level using a drop or two of your blood.
How to check your levels with a meter:
- Wash your hands.
- Insert a test strip into your meter.
- Use the lancing device on your finger to get a drop of blood.
- Touch and hold the edge of the test strip to the drop of blood.
- Your blood glucose level will appear on the meter’s display within minutes.
All meters are slightly different. Yours should come with a user’s guide that shows how to use it.
Also good to know:
- With some meters, you can also use your arm, thigh or the fleshy part of your hand.
- There are spring-loaded lancing devices that make sticking yourself less painful.
- If you use your finger, stick the side of your finger by your fingernail to avoid having a sore spot on the fingertip.
Your doctor or your pharmacy may be able to give you a free meter. Check to see if your health plan will provide a glucose meter for you. You can call the customer service phone number on your member ID card to find out.
Tip: Keep a Log
When you finish a blood sugar check, write down your results. Review them to see how food, activity and stress affect your blood sugar levels.
Take your log with you on your next doctor’s visit. The results may show it is time to change your diabetes treatment plan, medication, diet or other things that affect your blood sugar levels. Also, ask your doctor or nurse if you should call them at once if your results are below or above a set range.
How to Manage Your Diabetes
If you have Type 1 diabetes, your body doesn’t make the insulin it needs to control your blood sugar levels. You will have to take insulin.
If you have Type 2 diabetes, you may or may not need to take insulin. Sometimes it can be managed with good diet choices, exercise and other medicines.
For those who take insulin, it is very important to keep blood sugar levels in a normal range. It is also important to remember that insulin will only work well if you inject it the right way. This includes taking the right dose at the right time in the right way.
Doing it wrong can make your blood sugar level worse. It can also lead to other serious health problems like:
- Heart attack or stroke
- Eye problems that can lead to trouble seeing or going blind
- Pain, tingling or numbness in your hands and feet, also called nerve damage
- Kidney problems that can cause your kidneys to stop working
- Teeth and gum problems
When it is time for your injection, remember these important steps:
- Wash your hands.
- Wash the injection site and dry it completely.
- Don’t use the exact same injection site you used the last few times.
- Never reuse needles, and throw away used needles properly.
There are other ways to take insulin besides daily shots, like an insulin pump that gives you small doses of insulin throughout the day. Your doctor will work with you to find what is best for you.
Each person’s treatment is not the same. Be sure to talk with your doctor about your options and which way for taking insulin works best for you.
And it’s a good idea to review the steps for testing your blood sugar levels and using insulin with your doctor at least once a year and when your treatment changes.
Tip: Is It Covered?
Your doctor will know if an insulin method or device is covered by your health plan. If you aren’t sure, check your benefits book or call customer service at the number on your member ID card.
Consider a medical alert bracelet.
In an emergency, you may not be able to tell someone that you have diabetes. A medical alert bracelet or necklace can alert others that you may need immediate help. It will also help first responders or doctors know how to treat you. This is especially vital for those who use insulin. A medical alert bracelet lets them know:
- Important medical conditions
- Emergency contact information
Sources: Insulin, Medicines, & Other Diabetes Treatments, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD), 2016; Preventing Diabetes Problems, NIDDKD; Four Steps to Managing Your Diabetes for Life, NIDDKD, 2016; Blood Glucose Monitoring Devices, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2019; Checking Your Blood Glucose, American Diabetes Association (ADA), 2018; A1C and eAG, ADA, 2018; Blood sugar testing: Why, when and how, Mayo Clinic, 2018