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A blood sugar test is a simple procedure that measures the amount of glucose in the blood. It is performed by obtaining a small sample of blood and analyzing it. Blood can be obtained from a vein puncture or through a finger stick.
Glucose is one of the body’s main sources of energy. Various types of foods, especially carbohydrates, grains, and fruits, are converted into glucose and can raise blood sugar levels in the body. A blood sugar test measures the amount of blood sugar or glucose in the body. It can be useful in diagnosing diabetes. It can also help diabetics manage their condition.
Blood sugar tests are vital for anyone who is a diabetic. In addition, anyone who experiences symptoms of high or low blood sugar is a candidate for a blood sugar test. Monitoring levels is essential in order to determine how much insulin to take. People who are taking medications that can raise blood sugar levels, such as steroids, can also benefit from a blood sugar test.
Pregnant women and people who have a hard time controlling blood sugar levels should take routine blood sugar tests (American Diabetic Association).
Blood sugar tests do not usually cause many side effects. Blood sugar tests performed through a vein puncture can cause swelling and bruising at the puncture site. Blood sugar tests performed with a finger stick do not usually cause side effects other than possible soreness at the puncture site.
A blood sugar test is administered using a small needle and a blood glucose meter. Many different types of machines can be used for testing.
A blood sugar test can be performed in the hospital but it is also routinely done at home. If a blood sample is taken from the vein, the procedure will usually be done at the hospital or in a lab by a trained technician or phlebotomist. In many instances, a blood sugar test can be performed by obtaining a small amount of blood from a finger. The exact steps vary depending on the type of glucose meter a person is using. Many types of meters use glucose test strips. The steps for blood sugar testing usually include:
A blood sugar test can play a critical part in managing diabetes. The test identifies when glucose levels are too high or too low. This helps someone know when to take insulin. Monitoring blood sugar levels also provides information on how well a person’s diabetes is being controlled and how stable blood sugar levels are.
Very few risks are associated with a blood sugar test. Excess bleeding can occur, but it is unlikely. Any time the skin is punctured, infection is a risk, but it is also unlikely. Not having enough blood or getting an inaccurate reading are also risks of the procedure.
Some blood sugar tests require preparation. Fasting blood sugar tests require that a patient refrain from eating for 12 hours prior to the blood test. Non-fasting blood sugar tests do not require any special preparation.
With a glucose meter, the results of a blood sugar test are immediate.
Normal values for a fasting blood sugar test are blood sugar levels below 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Normal levels for a random blood sugar test done without fasting vary based on the food eaten by the patient. In general, a blood sugar level of less than 125 mg/dL is considered normal (University of Maryland Medical Center).
According to the American Diabetic Association, people who already have been diagnosed with diabetes will have targeted blood sugar levels. These are individualized and based on age, duration of diabetes, and other individual factors.
Written by: MaryAnn DePietro
Medically reviewed : George Krucik, MD, MBA
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