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Health News

People with Mild Diabetes May Overtest Their Glucose

by Health After 50  

Routine glucose self-monitoring is a good practice for many people with diabetes. However, that can be too much of a good thing for those who don’t use insulin or medications that can cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), a recent University of Michigan study suggests.

The researchers reviewed medical claims for blood glucose test strips by more than 370,000 adults with type 2 diabetes who weren’t receiving insulin. By calculating the number of strips patients bought each year, researchers concluded that about 14 percent of those patients were possibly checking their glucose inappropriately, such as more than once a day—a practice the American Diabetes Association doesn’t support since robust evidence shows no benefit of multiple checks daily. (Some groups, including theAmerican Academy of Family Physicians, theEndocrine Society, and the Society of General Internal Medicine, advise against routing home glucose monitoring at all for patients with Type 2 diabetes who don't use insulin, citing no benefit.)

According to the study, the average cost of one year’s worth of test strips is $325 before insurance, with an average co-pay of $18 annually. Some people may buy pre-owned test strips to save money, but the American Diabetes Association warns that secondhand strips aren’t guaranteed to yield accurate results. You should use only unopened vials of test strips to ensure accuracy.

What you should do

If your glucose levels are stable, but you’ve been testing yourself multiple times a day—and don’t use insulin or drugs that can cause hypoglycemia—work with your doctor to set up a safe and effective glucose monitoring schedule. You might be able to spare yourself multiple finger pricks—and save money, too.

A version of this article first appeared in the March 2019 issue of UC Berkeley Health After 50.

Also see 6 Ways to Live Well with Diabetes.