Blood Sugar Testing and Type 2 Diabetes

Many people with Type 2 diabetes go through an unpleasant daily routine of sticking their finger to draw blood so they can keep track of their blood sugar. But a potentially groundbreaking new study suggests they might not need to.

The main purpose of finger-sticking is to monitor the effects of insulin therapy. But most people with diabetes don’t receive insulin therapy. Even so, they are generally still advised to follow the finger-sticking procedure, a practice that has recently been the subject of some debate in the diabetes community. In the new study, researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine examined the merits of requiring people with Type 2 diabetes to test their blood sugar daily.

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For the study, which lasted a year, the researcher enlisted 450 people with Type 2 diabetes and divided them into three groups. Group One did no blood sugar monitoring. Group Two measured blood sugar once a day. Group Three not only checked blood sugar daily, they also received a daily Internet message of instruction or encouragement. After the year was up, the researchers arrived at three conclusions. First, there were no significant differences in blood glucose control among the three groups. Second, no significant differences in health-related quality of life were seen. Third, the researchers found no significant differences in low blood sugar, emergency room visits, or hospitalizations, and there was no difference in the number of people who had to begin insulin treatment during the year of the study.

The researchers cautioned that patients should not give up home blood sugar testing solely because of their study. According to Katrina Donahue, MD, senior author of the study, “Patients and providers have to consider each unique situation as they determine whether home blood glucose monitoring is appropriate.” She added, however, that the results of the study “suggest that self-monitoring of blood glucose in non-insulin-treated Type 2 diabetes has limited utility. For the majority, the costs may outweigh the benefits.”

Want to learn more about managing blood sugar? Read “What Is a Normal Blood Sugar Level?” “Managing Your Blood Glucose Ups and Downs,” and “Making Your Blood Glucose Monitor Work for You,” then see our blood sugar chart.

  • RAWLCM

    Very interesting. I utilize both long acting and pre-meal insulin and test four times a day. My glucose readings seldom vary enough for me to have to adjust my injection -maybe add two units once or twice a week. I’ve only had a significant low twice in twenty years. Sometimes I wonder if it’s not wasting money testing so often.

    • JohnC

      In your situation great.
      I have LADA which can become a moving target no matter what I do but I do great with frequent testing.
      Hey if one can maintain close to normal blood sugar readings with little supervision – Super!

      • RAWLCM

        I do consider myself fortunate and I have great empathy with those who struggle for control. I would never suggest that testing frequently was a bad idea -for anyone. In my particular case, I worry about the cost. And I know lots of diabetics who try to cut corners by reusing needles and lancets.

  • JohnC

    Ok I wonder how many diabetics in this study actually knew what to do with their readings they took or even knew what targets they should shoot for. Over the years I’m amazed at the number of people I’ve come across who don’t even know what the readings mean….worse yet have diabetes experts who never explained how they might manage their game plan for the better like maybe some food management etc.
    The way these types of research studies are conducted are just plain insulting to diabetics who work hard everyday to improve their outcomes and of course enjoy better health in the future.
    No matter what kind of diabetes you have test strips are an extremely important part of management for a better outcome. And they are just too darn expensive!

  • This is another study of what I call “mindless monitoring.” Checking your sugar at the same time every day and not doing anything with the information will not do any good, of course. You have to check in a way that informs you about what your food and life situations do to you, as Wil Dubois described in this article: https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/managing-diabetes/blood-glucose-management/blood-glucose-self-monitoring-part-3/