One of the most difficult facts of life as a type 2 diabetic is when you don’t know your blood sugar levels you can’t control your condition. While it might be tempting to call a psychic hot-line to get that information, the reality is the only way a diabetic can know their blood sugar levels is by finger sticks to draw blood samples to be read by their home glucometer.
Test strips are expensive, but even diabetics enjoying excellent insurance coverage often avoid testing. Often it’s because the diabetes educator who explained how to self monitor did not show them the right way, the less painful way.
1. Stick here: a strong jab in the fleshy end of your finger or thumb will produce a super drop of blood that’s easy to get onto the test strip. The problem with this is the fleshy parts of your fingers are where you have the most nerves and you feel the most pain. It’s a lot better to draw blood on the sides of your finger or thumb… away from your nail… where there is far less sensitivity to pain.
2. Stay sharp: although it’s possible to draw blood by just jabbing yourself with a sharp object, it’s always better to use a spring-loaded lancet. After a few tries, you can find the setting that gets a drop of blood the size you need… with very little or no pain. The maker of the lancet will advise you to use a fresh sharp every time you test, and there’s a reason for that. Sharp lancets cause less pain than dull lancets. You can actually use the same lancet over and over again for up to 100 tests… but after short time, testing will begin to hurt.
3. Lancet gauge: the higher the gauge of the lancet by the way, the more “ouchless” the finger stick. Most diabetics prefer 30 gauge lancets. You can also avoid painful finger sticks simply by testing in different spots on your finger tip. Testing in the same place often, will give you a callus… then it gets harder and harder to draw a drop of blood there. And at some point you will give yourself real pain when you try to break the skin or callus.
4. Continuous Glucose Monitoring: they may seem to be the way to go to avoid pain but actually it hurts more. Continuous glucose monitors consist of a sensor implanted beneath your skin; these need to be replaced every few days. The implantation of the sensor is not painless, and it has to be taken out. The sensor has to be calibrated twice a day against a blood sample, and that requires a finger stick. Moreover, there is a greater risk of infection with a continuous glucose sensor than with a simple finger stick.
5. Accurate results: washing your hands before testing helps you get accurate results. You don’t want to do a finger stick only to get a measurement of the sugar content of the dirt, grease, or moisturizer that is on your finger. It’s absolutely essential to wash hands, especially if you have recently handled sugar.
6. Don’t share: using a lancet belonging to another diabetic can, and often does, transmit infection. It’s utterly essential to your blood sugar level testing that you, and only you, use your lancets and sharps. Letting someone else use one of your test strips, of course, is not a problem.