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You can test for diabetes in the comfort of your own home. However, for the most accurate results, it’s still best to visit a doctor.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just look in the mirror and know your blood sugar numbers, like knowing whether you’re having a good hair day? Unfortunately, until medical science makes some serious technological leaps, the primary way to know whether you have diabetes or other blood sugar issues is to check your glucose levels via a blood test.
If you’re concerned you might have diabetes or prediabetes, it’s always best to see your doc. But to get a baseline sense of your sugar levels, you can definitely monitor things on your own. Keeping tabs on your blood sugar is something you can easily do at home.
At-home diabetes tests are available with the click of a button online (or a quick trip to your local drugstore). Here’s everything you need to know about how home tests work, who needs them, and where to find them.
So you wanna get familiar with your blood sugar? You’ve got options for checking in on your levels from the comfort of your own bathroom (or basically wherever).
Blood tests are the most common at-home option. Hemoglobin A1C tests, fasting blood sugar tests, glucose tolerance tests, and random blood sugar tests require you to take a small sample of blood (typically from a prick of your finger), then apply it to a test strip. This test strip then gets inserted into a device with a glucose meter that indicates your blood sugar levels within minutes.
If you don’t do well with needles, other at-home tests let you test your urine for ketones — substances that show up when you have diabetes. These aren’t considered as accurate an indicator of diabetes as blood tests, though.
In general, at-home diabetes test kits and devices range in price from about $35 to over $200. Shop around online or at your local CVS, Walgreens, or other drugstore to find a test that suits your budget and preferences.
A quick Google search will net you diabetes tests up the wazoo, each with their own pros and cons. Need a little help sorting through the search results? We got you.
Hemoglobin A1C tests
This test measures your hemoglobin A1C, a type of blood cell chemically linked to sugars. It’s a bit of a crystal ball into your blood sugar level over the previous 2-3 months, so it’s considered the most accurate test for diabetes detection. Another bonus: It can be performed any time.
An A1C test typically requires a small amount of blood. Some test strips, like OneTouch Verio blood glucose test strips, only take 0.4 uL. (That’s just 4 millionths of a liter!)
Fasting blood sugar tests
These blood sugar tests look at your blood sugar when you haven’t eaten for awhile — usually 8 hours or longer. They don’t yield the long-term insight of an A1C test, but are a good way to get a sense of your normal sugar levels when you first wake up.
If you perform this test often, such as every morning, you’ll want a supply of single-use lancets, such as TRUEplus 33 gauge lancets in a 100-count pack.
Glucose tolerance tests
In this test, you’ll drink a highly sugary beverage — we’re talking 100 grams of sugar! — on an empty stomach to see how your blood glucose responds. After downing your ultra-sweet drink, you’ll check your blood sugar 1, 2, and sometimes 3 hours later.
Though you can get at-home glucose tolerance tests, they’re typically performed in a doctor’s office to check for gestational diabetes.
Random blood sugar tests
Surprise, it’s testing time! Random blood sugar tests are a quick peek into how your blood sugar is doing at any given moment of the day. The advantage here, of course, is that you don’t have to be fasting.
Keep a stock of test strips handy (like Accu-Chek Guide glucose test strips) to bust a blood sugar check any time.
People with no symptoms, risk factors, or family history of diabetes probably don’t need to test their blood sugar outside of routine medical care. But if you’re reading this, that’s probably not you. Some situations that may call for at-home testing include:
- You have a family history of diabetes
- You’re having symptoms of diabetes, such as frequent urination, weight loss, increased thirst, or blurry vision
- You have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, or gestational diabetes and want to keep tabs on your blood glucose
You’ve got your materials all lined up and ready to go. Now to test! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the following steps:
- Make sure your meter and other materials are clean and ready to use.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and dry them well.
- Use a lancet to prick your finger, then gently squeeze a small amount of blood onto the test strip.
- Place the strip into the meter.
- Watch for your reading to appear after a few seconds.
- Record your reading and any notes about your day’s activity, diet, etc.
- Dispose of both the lancet and the strip.
A reputable test should include instructions on how to read and interpret results — so be sure to read through all directions before analyzing your numbers. Depending on the test you use, you may be looking at different number ranges.
Here’s what to expect from various types of tests:
- Hemoglobin A1C tests. Normal hemoglobin A1C is below 5.7%, between 5.7 and 6.4% indicates prediabetes, and 6.5% or higher means you have diabetes.
- Fasting blood sugar tests. A fasting glucose level of 99 mg/dL is considered normal, 100-125 mg/dL is a sign of prediabetes, and 126 mg/dL or above indicates diabetes.
- Glucose tolerance tests. At 2 hours, a sugar level of 140 mg/dL is normal, 140-199 mg/dL means prediabetes, and 200 mg/dL or higher means diabetes.
- Random blood sugar tests. If you test your blood sugar at random and get a level of 200 mg/dL or higher, it’s an indicator of diabetes. Numbers below this are considered normal.
Testing for blood sugar is one time you really want accurate numbers — a false positive or false negative could have major health consequences. Stick to these tips for accuracy:
- Massage your finger prior to pricking it with the lancet. This helps blood rise to the surface.
- Keep test strip containers tightly closed when not in use. Moisture can damage them.
- Don’t clean your skin with alcohol prior to testing — it’s too drying.
- Keep track of your test results in a place you won’t lose them.
- Compare your at-home results with those you receive at your doctor’s office.
Technically, home blood sugar tests aren’t intended to diagnose diabetes. Medical-grade testing is really the gold standard for finding out whether you have this condition. While home tests can be helpful (especially for monitoring your blood sugar on a regular basis), you’ll want to visit your healthcare provider to establish a diagnosis.
When you want to know if your blood sugar is in a healthy range, it’s so nice not to have to shlep to the doctor’s office to find out. Just know that at-home diabetes test kits are more for monitoring than for diagnosis. Keep a stash in your medicine cabinet if your circumstances call for frequent testing — then rest easy knowing you can test at home any time.