Self-monitoring of blood sugar had no effect on long-term glucose levels in those not taking insulin, researchers say
There’s good news for people with type 2 diabetes who don’t take insulin: They don’t necessarily need to suffer endless finger sticks to check their blood sugar levels, according to a new study.
Many of these patients use blood sugar monitors that prick their fingers, but “testing blood sugar didn’t have any impact on their blood sugar,” said study author Laura Young, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina. “The best way to control blood sugar is to take your medication the way your doctor asks you to and to take good care of yourself. The key is really taking your medications.”
Monitoring helps when a patient starts a new medication or changes doses. “But if someone is on insulin, they absolutely need to be tested regularly,” Dr. Young said.
Insulin can lead people to have a low blood sugar level, a condition known as hypoglycemia, which can cause dizziness, weakness and, untreated, coma. “Patients should have a conversation with their doctor about whether or not they should be checking blood sugar,” she said.
For this study, researchers randomly assigned 450 patients with type 2 diabetes who weren’t taking insulin to monitor their blood sugar once a day with a typical blood sugar meter, once a day with a monitor that gave them a feedback message or not to monitor their blood sugar at all.
At the end of the year-long study, the researchers found no differences between the groups in how well their blood sugar was controlled or in their quality of life.
An improvement in blood sugar in hemoglobin A1c levels was reported in the early months of the trial, but wasn’t significant at the end of the trial, the researchers said, so results may have been skewed by people who left the trial.
Patients self-monitoring blood sugar levels mainly are checking to see if the levels are too low, not too high. Those taking non-insulin medications usually have normal A1c numbers because these meds typically don’t cause hypoglycemia.