The upcoming World Diabetes Day on November 14th brings to our mind the blood glucose test which is a key player in the diabetes story. Most people have gone through this test, usually included in a panel of blood tests conducted in a pathology lab, which assists a doctor to diagnose a health condition. Here we present answers to some frequently asked questions regarding this blood glucose test.
What are glucose and insulin?
Glucose is the main source of energy for the body’s cells, produced by the digestion of dietary carbohydrates, and is transported by the blood to all parts of the body. Insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas) transfers extra glucose from the blood to muscle, fat, and liver cells for storage. Changes in blood glucose levels are an indicator of abnormal digestion process.
Is blood glucose test the same as blood sugar test?
Yes, sugar is a general name for carbohydrates and glucose is a simple carbohydrate found in the blood. Hence, the terms sugar and glucose, are used interchangeably.
What are the normal levels of blood glucose?
The normal blood glucose level ranges between 80-120 mg/dl.
Do blood glucose levels remain constant throughout the day?
No, the levels are lowest in the morning before any food is consumed and rise for 1-2 hours after meals. The average blood glucose is 90 mg/dl.
When is the best time to assess blood glucose levels?
It may be measured randomly (anytime), in the morning before breakfast, after a meal (post prandial) or a short time after the patient drinks an oral glucose solution (glucose tolerance test, OGTT or GTT).
What is fasting blood glucose (FBG)?
Depending on the purpose of the test, the patient may be required to fast (or not eat) for 8-10 hours before the test.
What is the purpose of the blood glucose test?
This test is used to screen the blood for undetected health conditions (hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia), diagnose diabetes mellitus and monitor glucose levels in diabetics.
What is hypoglycemia?
It is a condition in which the blood glucose levels drop below the lower normal limit (80 mg). Symptoms of hypoglycemia are lethargy, decrease in mental function, irritability, shakiness, weakness in the arm and/or leg muscles, sweating and loss of consciousness. In severe cases, brain damage can also occur.
What is hyperglycemia?
It is a condition in which the blood glucose levels rise above the upper normal limit (120 mg). While suppressed appetite is a short-term symptom, long-term symptoms include eye, kidney and nerve damage plus increased risk of heart disease.
What is diabetes mellitus?
Commonly referred to as diabetes, it’s a persistent state of hyperglycemia. The blood glucose levels are high because the patient’s body is unable to remove sugar from the blood and take it to fat, liver, and muscle cells for storage. It is usually a long-term or chronic disease. The most common types of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2. Also, a temporary state condition of gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy.
What is type 1 diabetes?
This type is usually found in children or young adults. In it the body produces low or no insulin and daily insulin injections are necessary.
What is type 2 diabetes?
This type, usually found in adults, is the predominant type and here the body is unable to use insulin correctly e.g. in overweight or obese people, the excess fat interferes with insulin function.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
If left unchecked, diabetes may cause blurry vision, excess thirst, fatigue, hunger, frequent urination and weight loss. Long-term effects of uncontrolled diabetes are eye, kidney and nerve damage plus increased risk of heart disease.
How often do diabetics need to monitor their glucose levels?
Generally once a month test is recommended but the frequency varies depending on the type of diabetes, type of medication and lifestyle (controlling weight, blood pressure and lipid levels). The frequency may be higher in new Type I diabetics – up to 4 times per day – and reduces once the diabetes has stabilized (fewer fluctuations in glucose levels).
How often should blood glucose tests be done in non-diabetics?
The recommendations for detecting potential diabetes condition are:
a) In overweight children, starting at age 10, every 2 years
b) In overweight adults (BMI > 25)
c) Adults aged > 45 years, every 3 years
What is Glycosylated Hemoglobin (GHb) estimation?
This refers to a lab test that assesses long-term, that is over 6 to 8 weeks, change in average blood glucose levels.
Is it possible to monitor blood glucose without visiting a pathology lab?
Yes, a patient can self-monitor their blood glucose levels at home. A few drops of blood from a fingertip are collected on a strip and analyzed for glucose levels by a small device (machine) – the result is presented as a number on a low/high scale. Latest blood glucose monitors can also be attached to some smartphones which enable monitoring on-the-go.
What are the differences between various blood glucose monitoring products?
The monitoring products are often sold as complete kits containing test strips, lancets, lancing device and meter. In addition, individual components are also sold separately:
- Testing strips: on which blood drops are collected and give instant color-coded results
- Lancets: sterile fine needles that painlessly puncture the skin to obtain a blood sample
- Lancing device: a high speed pen-like tool with multiple skin penetration depth options that prevent cuts
- Meter: battery-operated, gives a reading within 5-10 seconds, contains a coding chip with the ability to display and label results plus calculate averages and storage memory
How beneficial is self-monitoring of blood glucose levels?
Some studies indicate that self-monitoring may reduce organ damage (30%) and death (50%) in type 2 diabetes patients.
Learn more about blood glucose levels and diabetes at: