When Your Fingers Have Had Enough

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Taking blood samples from the fingertips is the most common way to measure blood glucose levels, but fingers can get sore from frequent pricks. One way to give your fingers a break from blood sugar testing is to use a meter approved to use blood from alternative test sites. Different meters are approved for different body sites, so be sure to check the owner’s manual, but some common ones are the forearms, the fleshy parts of the hand below the pinky or thumb, and the fleshy parts of the thighs and calves; all of these areas are less sensitive than fingertips.

The downside to using alternative test sites is that the readings may not be as accurate under certain circumstances. In particular, if blood glucose levels are changing rapidly — as would be expected after a meal, after an insulin injection, or during exercise — there may be a significant difference in the blood glucose level measured in a fingertip sample and in an alternative site sample. Therefore, using a fingertip sample is recommended if you are monitoring at these times. It is also recommended if a person suspects he may have low blood glucose (hypoglycemia) so there is no delay in detecting and treating it. However, some meters have gotten clearance from the Food and Drug Administration to include statements in their labeling equating fingertip and palm samples, so either can be used at any time.

Originally published May 13, 2009.

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