Blood Sugar Control for Diabetes – A How to Guide
If you have just been diagnosed with diabetes you may be thinking that life as you know it is over. However, diabetes is a very manageable disease that will allow you to live a long and happy life. One of the most important factors to living a long and essentially symptom-free is your diabetic blood sugar control. There are normal ranges of blood sugar that doctors and clinicians alike agree that diabetics should aim to stay between. These ranges are for normal non-pregnant otherwise healthy adults. Depending on your treatment goals, these ranges may vary from your doctor’s recommendations.
Checking Blood Sugar – Who Should Be Doing it?
Blood glucose monitoring is the main tool used for Type I diabetics. This monitoring tells the person their blood glucose level at any time and allows them to effectively manage their diabetes. Often, keeping a log of your blood glucose levels (like the one pictured) can help you get an idea of your blood sugar control.
- Taking insulin
- Difficulty controlling blood glucose
- Low blood glucose symptoms
- High blood glucose symptoms
Those are just a few reasons that you should be monitoring your blood glucose. Talk with your provider to determine a schedule that works for you.
How do I Check My Blood Sugar Levels?
Blood sugar control depends on your monitoring and abilities to follow your diabetes care plan. Checking your blood sugar can be done in 4 easy steps:
- Wash your hands and insert a strip into your blood glucose meter
- Clean your finger with an alcohol swab and using a new lancet, prick your finger and wipe the first drop of blood with a piece of gauze.
- Using the next drop of blood, touch the blood to your test strip that is in your glucose meter.
- Wait for your results to appear on the glucose meter screen.
Be sure to dispose of all materials safely and correctly. Always check your specific meter’s instruction manual for any differences in proper use.
Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)
Low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia is usually characterized by a blood sugar level lower than 70 mg/dL. However, depending on your targets this number may be different for you. Be sure to discuss with your provider your individual target ranges. Low blood sugar can be a result of too much insulin or too little food. There are a few symptoms that may indicate hypoglycemia and they manifest rather quickly. If you begin experiencing these symptoms do not wait to take action and check your blood glucose level if possible. If checking your blood glucose is not possible, simply treat the hypoglycemia.
Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar
- Tingling lips/tongue
- Coordination decline
As stated, if you begin experiencing any of these symptoms you should take action immediately! Do not wait. Severe hypoglycemia can be life threatening.
Treating Low Blood Sugar
There is a standardized treatment procedure when you are experiencing low blood sugar levels. Once you determine your blood sugar is low or emergency intervention is necessary, follow these steps:
- Consume 15-20 grams of simple carbohydrates, preferably glucose. This can be in the form of glucose tablets (can be purchased at drug stores), food, or juices.
- Check blood glucose levels 15 minutes after.
- Repeat if hypoglycemia persists.
- Once your blood sugar levels have returned to a normal level you may continue your day. If you have a few hours until your next planned meal, you should consume a small snack to eliminate the risk of another hypoglycemic incident.
In the more severe cases, glucagon may be required. Glucagon can be prescribed in a pen form for family members to use on you if you were to become unconscious/pass out. When someone is unconscious it is not safe to feed them or give them any fluids because of the risk of choking.
Normal Blood Sugar
A normal blood sugar can be determined by measuring levels in a number of different manners. The first is Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C), which should be right around 7%. The next is your preprandial plasma glucose, or glucose levels before a meal, which should be between 80 and 130 mg/dL. Once you have eaten your meal, your blood glucose should not be above 180 mg/dL. By keeping your blood sugar within the normal ranges has had clinical significance on reducing diabetes-related complications.
High Blood Sugar (Hyperglycemia)
Hyperglycemia or high blood sugar occurs when your body does not have enough insulin or does not use it properly. The actual causes can be the result of many factors such as:
- Not enough insulin in type I diabetics
- Your body is unable to utilize your insulin as well as it should, often in type II diabetics.
- Ate more than you had planned when administering your insulin
- Did not exercise as much as you planned (too little insulin)
- Dawn phenomenon – A surge of glucagon in the early morning that causes the liver to produce more glucose than necessary without insulin to lower blood sugar levels.
High Blood Sugar Symptoms
The symptoms of hyperglycemia should not be ignored. If you experience any of these symptoms you should check your blood glucose levels and proceed accordingly.
- High sugar levels in urine
- Frequently urinating
- Increased thirst
- High blood glucose levels
Treatment of High Blood Sugar
The blood sugar level that is considered hyperglycemia is related to each individual patient. For most people, blood glucose can be treated through exercise. However, if your blood glucose is above 240 mg/dL you will want to check your urine for ketones. If ketones are present, do NOT exercise. This will only cause your blood glucose to go even higher. Ketoacidosis is a serious life-threatening incident. Symptoms of this condition include:
- Fruity breath smell
- Dry mouth/cotton mouth
If you are having trouble controlling your high blood sugar, talk with your doctor to determine what the safest way to lower your blood sugar is. You may need to add a medication, more dietary interventions, or exercise more depending on your current treatment interventions.
Neuropathy – A Complication of Chronic High Blood Sugar and other factors
If you are not careful with your glucose monitoring, you could develop some unwanted side effects of diabetes. One of the most common complications associated with diabetes is Neuropathy or nerve damage. According to diabetes.org, approximately ½ of diabetics develop some degree of neuropathy. This complication can be delayed or prevented entirely with good blood sugar control. Neuropathy most often affects those who have had diabetes for years. This occurs because, over the years, poor blood sugar control causes damage to the blood vessels. As the damage increases, symptoms begin to manifest. This is why keeping your blood sugar levels within normal ranges is extremely important. Check back next week for an in-depth look at Neuropathy, from prevention and detection to treatment.
Blood Sugar Control in Review
Blood glucose levels should always be monitored closely in diabetic patients. As mentioned earlier in this blog post, good blood glucose control is associated with a decrease in the risks of diabetes-related complications. Visit our helpful tips page to learn more about diabetes and ways to manage the disease.