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.
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.