Why do blood glucose levels fluctuate?

Blood glucose meters are portable devices that allow you to measure the glucose levels in your blood. By pricking your finger and putting a drop of your blood onto a test strip that is connected to a meter, you will get a reading. Understanding your readings is a very useful way to help you look after your diabetes because it can help you work out what affects your glucose levels. Your healthcare team will determine what your individual recommended range is.

Why do blood glucose levels go up and down?

Each reading will be different, even if it is done at the same time each day. This is because many things affect blood glucose readings, such as:

  • Food – timing and quantity of food eaten (carbohydrates such as bread, pastries and testing before or two hours after eating)
  • Medications – both diabetes and non-diabetes (for example, steroids can cause your blood glucose levels to go up and diabetes medication can help to bring blood glucose levels down)
  • Hands – wet hands or hands with remnants of food
  • Strips – expired, incorrect strips for your meter, not a large enough blood sample, incorrectly inserted strip
  • Meter – possibly too hot or cold or the battery may be low or going flat
  • Health – sickness, stress or recent exercise

By monitoring your blood glucose levels you may be able to identify patterns. For example, your favourite breakfast cereal might make your glucose levels rise much more than a slice of wholemeal toast. You can use this information to make decisions about what to eat for breakfast.

Blood glucose meters come with many different features and based on your needs, you may or may not want or need extra features. Your diabetes educator can help you when it comes to choosing the right meter for you. Meters range from basic models to more advanced meters with multiple features and options. Some of the things to consider are:

  • Calculation of insulin dose – do you need a meter that automatically calculates insulin dose to carbohydrate intake?
  • Size – do you want a meter that can fit in your pocket or one that has a large screen that’s easy to read?
  • Memory capacity – how much storage do you need? Storage can range from 99 to 2,000 results.
  • Needle free testing – would you prefer to scan instead of pricking your finger?
  • Software/Wireless – would you like a meter that connects to a compatible smartphone or PC? This allows you to download your results, view patterns in your readings and share with your health care professional.
  • Special features – Do you need large, easy-to-handle buttons or test strips? Would an illuminated screen or features such as audio be useful if your vision is impaired?

If your blood glucose meter is a few years old, your diabetes educator can test it to make sure it is still working. Your diabetes educator can help you choose the best meter for you. All meters available in Australia have TGA (therapeutic goods administration) approval which means they should give you a similar reading between meters.

If you need more help managing your diabetes you can call your local diabetes service or call the NDSS Helpline on 1300 136 588 and ask to speak with a Diabetes Educator.

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