A blood sugar test is a procedure that measures the amount of sugar, or glucose, in your blood. Your doctor may order this test to help diagnose diabetes. People with diabetes can also use this test to manage their condition.
Blood sugar tests provide instant results and let you know the following:
- Whether your diet or exercise routine needs to change
- How your diabetes medications or treatment is working
- How your blood sugar levels are, high or low
- How your overall treatment goals for diabetes are manageable
Your doctor may also order a blood sugar test as part of a routine checkup. They may also be looking to see if you have diabetes or prediabetes, a condition where your blood sugar levels are higher than normal.
Factors of high blood sugar level
Your risk for diabetes increases if any of the following factors;
- If you are 45 years old or older
- If you are overweight
- If you don’t exercise much
- If you have high blood pressure, high triglycerides, or low good cholesterol levels (HDL)
- If you have a history of gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby who weighed over 4kgs.
- If you have a history if insulin resistance
- IF you have a history of strokes or hypertension
- If you have a family history of diabetes
What does a blood sugar test do?
Your doctor may refer a blood sugar test to see if you have diabetes or prediabetes. The test will measure the amount of glucose in your blood.
Your body takes carbohydrates found in foods like grains and fruits and converts them into glucose. Glucose, a sugar, is one of the body’s main sources of energy.
For people with diabetes, a home test (Glucometer) helps monitor blood sugar levels. Taking a blood sugar test can help determine your blood sugar level to see if you need to adjust your diet, exercise, or diabetes medications.
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can lead to seizures or a coma if left untreated. High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) can lead to ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition that’s often a concern for those with type 1 diabetes. Ketoacidosis occurs when your body starts using only fat for fuel. Hyperglycemia over a long period can increase your risk for neuropathy (nerve damage), along with heart, kidney, and eye diseases.
Types of blood sugar tests
You can take a blood sugar test two ways.
- People who are monitoring or managing their diabetes prick their finger using a glucometer for daily testing.
- Blood samples are generally used to screen for diabetes. Your doctor will refer a fasting blood sugar (FBS) test. This test measures your blood sugar levels, or glycosylated haemoglobin also called a haemoglobin A1C test or HbA1c. The results of this test reflect your blood sugar levels over the previous 90 days. The results will show if you have prediabetes or diabetes and can monitor how your diabetes is controlled.
- Blood sugar testing after meal (2hrs gap after meal). Commonly referred to as postprandial or pp
- Blood sugar random testing. This can test anytime during the day
*Self-management of blood sugar level using glucometer is not advisable and risk.
When to test blood sugar
When and how often you should test your blood sugar depends on the type of diabetes you have and your treatment.
Type 1 diabetes
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), if you’re managing type 1 diabetes with multiple dose insulin or an insulin pump, you’ll want to monitor your blood sugar before:
- eating a meal or snack
- critical tasks like driving or babysitting
High blood sugar
You’ll want to check your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes and feel increasing thirst and the urge to urinate. These could be symptoms of high blood sugar and you may need to modify your treatment plan.
If your diabetes is well-controlled but you still have symptoms, it may mean you’re getting sick or that you’re under stress.
Exercising and managing your carbohydrate intake may help with lowering your blood sugar levels. If these changes don’t work, you may need to meet with your doctor to decide how to get your blood sugar levels back into the target range.
Low blood sugar
Check your blood sugar levels if you feel any of the following symptoms:
- sweaty or chilly
- irritated or impatient
- lightheaded or dizzy
- hungry and nauseous
- tingly or numb in the lips or tongue
- angry, stubborn, or sad
Some symptoms like delirium, seizures, or unconsciousness can be symptoms of low blood sugar or insulin shock. If you’re on daily insulin injections, ask your doctor about glucagon, a prescription medicine that can help if you’re having a severe low blood sugar reaction.
You can also have low blood sugar and show no symptoms. This is called hypoglycemia unawareness. If you have a history of hypoglycemia unawareness, you may need to test your blood sugar more often.
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Some women develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy. This is when hormones interfere with the way your body uses insulin. It causes sugar to accumulate in the blood.
Your doctor will recommend testing your blood sugar regularly if you have gestational diabetes. Testing will make sure that your blood glucose level is within a healthy range. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after childbirth.
What is a glucose tolerance test?
A glucose tolerance test measures how well your body’s cells are able to absorb glucose (sugar) after you consume a specific amount of sugar. Doctors primarily use a glucose tolerance test to diagnose diabetes during pregnancy (called gestational diabetes).
Doctors should screen all pregnant women for gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes can cause pregnancy complications, so early detection and prompt treatment are important.If you’re pregnant, your doctor will usually recommend that you have this test between weeks 24 and 28 of your pregnancy. Your doctor may also recommend that you do this test earlier if you’re experiencing diabetes symptoms or if you were at risk of having diabetes before you were pregnant.
A two-hour, 75-gram oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) is used to test for diabetes. The laboratory will take draw the blood for fasting glucose level first. They’ll then ask you to drink 8 ounces of a syrupy glucose solution that contains 75 grams of sugar.
You’ll then wait in the laboratory for two hours. The laboratory technician will draw blood at the one- and two-hour marks.
Blood Sugar Normal Ranges
Your doctor will provide a more specific target range for your blood sugar levels depending on the following factors:
- personal history
- how long you’ve had diabetes
- presence of diabetes complications
- overall health
Tracking your blood sugar levels is one way to take control of your diabetes. You may find it helpful to log your results in a journal or app. Trends like continuously having levels that are too high or too low may mean adjusting your treatment for better results.