Caring Currents

Should You Put Type 2 Diabetes to the Test?

Last updated:

May 08, 2008

Is self-monitoring worth the effort and expense? While home testing is generally viewed as a no-brainer among most diabetes health organizations and educators, there's actually some debate among medical professionals about whether people with type 2 diabetes who don't use insulin should bother with managing their disease through blood sugar monitoring on a regular basis.

The naysayers recently got a boost from two studies out of the UK published in the British Medical Journal. In a nutshell: The researchers found no evidence to suggest that self-monitoring improved glucose control or had any impact on the use of medication or the frequency of low blood sugar incidents.

What they did find: People who religiously pricked their fingers and checked their numbers self-reported more depression than those who didn't test. And: Those who self monitor spent more on diabetes care than those who didn't, but did no better healthwise and, in fact, showed reductions in their quality of life. Yowzer.

So is it time to toss the ol' lancing device? Not so fast say patient advocates in the blogosphere. For a Down Under perspective on potential flaws in the English research check out Aussie Alan's (type 2) diabetes journal.

And over at Diabetes Mine, Amy Tenderich (type 1), aghast at -- in her view -- the latest ill-conceived conclusions about blood sugar checks, offers this commonsense advice: "Glucose testing does absolutely NOTHING if the person with diabetes doesn't know what to do with the results."

She provides some sound pointers to those new (and not so new) to the testing game.

To wit, encourage those with diabetes to:

  • Test before and after specific foods or meals to gauge how food affects their numbers. They may decide to cut down or eliminate a food that seems to trigger high readings or plan to eat it before exercising to offset the blood glucose spike it induces.
  • Test at the same time(s) every day to look for patterns. Is your dad's blood sugar always sky high after dinner? Do your mom's numbers drop dangerously low before bedtime? When you spot a trend, tell your parent's main diabetes care provider and look for ways to adjust food intake or meds to compensate.
  • Test. Only individual daily glucose checks (versus the A1c test) will give you the heads up that your parents need to rethink their breakfast menu or schedule physical activity for a different time of day.

What's your take? Has your parents' self-monitoring helped them keep their condition in check? Tales from the trenches can really make a difference to folks new to navigating the terrain in diabetes-land. So pass along your pearls.

Image by Flickr user Khurt used under the Creative Commons attribution license.