Prick finger blood test

Testing your blood glucose with a blood glucose meter allows you manage your diabetes. Watch a video guide on how to test your blood glucose (sugar) levels.

For people new to diabetes, this guide to testing your blood glucose levels should get you started.

Testing your blood sugar levels helps you to make informed decisions about your diet, activity and, if self-adjusting insulin, dosing requirements.

Bear in mind that not all blood glucose meters are the samen, so you may need to slightly the modify the method here.

What do I need to test my blood sugar?

In order to test your blood sugar levels, you will need:

  • a blood glucose meter
  • a test strip and
  • a lancing device

Some blood glucose meters may come with test strips and/or lancing devices.

If in doubt, ask your healthcare professional.

How to test your blood glucose

  1. Prepare your kit ready for testing. This should include: your meter , a test strip to hand (it may be advisable to have a spare strip to hand too), the finger pricker (lancing device), cotton wool (optional) and a monitoring diary to record the results
  2. Ensure that the finger pricking device has been loaded with a new lancet
  3. Wash and dry your hands – to ensure that the result is not influenced by any sugars that may be present on your fingers A fuller drop of blood will be obtained if your fingers are warm, so it’s worth warming your hands up if you can. Be careful not to overheat your fingers so as not to hurt yourself.
  4. Put a test strip into your meter
  5. Prick your finger with the lancing device at the sides of the finger as there are less nerve ending here than at the tips or the ‘pads’. Recommended finger: the World Health Organisation recommends the middle or ring fingers are used for blood glucose tests (second and third fingers). You may want to avoid using your little finger due to the skin being thin. You may need to squeeze your finger a little until blood appears – if you find you need to squeeze hard, try pricking a finger again.
  6. When blood appears, check the meter is ready and then transfer the blood onto the test strip and wait a few seconds – most meters these days provide a result within 10 seconds and often sooner.
  7. If the test is unsuccessful, repeat from step 4.
  8. If the test is successful, clean any blood off your finger – with the cotton wool if necessary
  9. Record the result in a monitoring diary
  10. Dispose of the test strip and ensure that the lancet used is put into a sharps bin

Transcript

Prepare your kit. You will need a blood glucose meter, test strips, finger pricker or lancing device, a lancet, cotton wool and a monitoring diary to record your results. Wash your hands first. Make sure your hands are thoroughly dry before starting the test.

Load a new lancet into the finger pricker or lancing device. It snaps in there; load a test strip into the blood glucose meter. This one switches on as you put in the test strip. Prick your finger at the sides as it’s less painful that at the tip or at the pads, so prick it on the sides, just here. Give a little squeeze – not too hard. If you squeeze too hard, prick your finger again.

Just check the machine is on before you put the blood onto the strip. The result should appear within a few seconds. There we go – it’s a little bit low; 3.6 mmol/L. I’ll need to treat that with some glucose tablets. Just clean your fingers, remove the test strip which can be throw away. Make sure that the lancet is disposed of in a sharps bin.

Finally, record your results in a blood glucose monitoring diary as I have here. That’s 3.6 mmol/L and that’s after lunch.

Download a FREE blood glucose levels chart for your phone, desktop or as a printout.

Most diabetics agree that blood glucose testing can be a pain, but it is an essential part of diabetes management

Summit Medical Group Web Site

Why is blood sugar testing important?

Measuring blood sugar (glucose) levels at home has become a cornerstone of diabetes care. Measuring blood sugar regularly can:

  • Help you know if your blood sugar is within your target range. Staying in a healthy range can help prevent or delay the long-term complications of high blood sugar, such as heart, kidney, eye, nerve, and circulation problems
  • Help you know if your blood sugar is too low or too high and treatment is needed
  • Help you know how much and which type of medicine to use
  • Prevent low blood sugar at night
  • Help you manage illness at home
  • Let you know if you need to do a ketone test (if you have type 1 diabetes)
  • Help you understand the effects of certain foods, exercise, and stress on your blood sugar
  • Help your healthcare provider know if changes in your treatment are needed

What supplies are needed?

Doing a blood test requires:

  • Finger-pricking (lancing) device: A finger-pricking device (called a lancet) is used to get a drop of blood for the test. The lancet can often be set at different depths for different people. Adjustable lancets are good for young children and tender skin and for when you do not need the lancet to go deep. Remember to change the lancet every day. A sharp and clean lancet helps prevent injury and infection.
  • Blood glucose meter (glucometer): Most people use blood glucose meters to test blood sugar. Not all meters measure in the same way, so the results from different meters are not always the same. It doesn’t matter which type of meter you choose as long as you always use the same meter. Bring the meter to each clinic visit. Your healthcare provider can get a record of the test results from the meter.

    Some features to look for in a meter include:

    • Accuracy: Make sure the meter is accurate in the environment where you live, for example, in cool or hot temperatures, high humidity, or high altitude
    • Ability to store at least the last 100 test values (to share with your healthcare provider at your checkups) and to download the information at the clinic or at home
    • Small size for easy carrying
    • Quick testing time
    • Easy to keep clean
    • Ability to check meter accuracy with a control solution or strip

    Your provider, nurse, diabetes educator, or pharmacist can show you how to use your meter.

  • Test strips that are put into the blood glucose meter: When choosing test strips, make sure they work in the meter you are using. Look for strips that need only a small drop of blood and can draw the blood into the strip. If you have health insurance, make sure you know what types of strips your insurance will pay for before you choose your meter.
  • If meters are not available, color-changing blood sugar strips may be used to test blood sugar.

How is the blood sugar test done?

You can get a drop of blood from a finger or toe. To get a drop of blood:

  1. Wash the area with warm water. This increases blood flow and makes sure there is nothing on the finger or toe that may change the reading. It also helps prevent infection. Do not routinely wipe the finger with alcohol. Any trace of alcohol left on the skin will interfere with the test. Occasionally, when you are away from home (for example, camping or at picnics), you may use alcohol-free travel wipes to clean the area. If alcohol wipes are the only cleaner available, be sure to let the alcohol dry completely before pricking your finger.
  2. Air dry the area before pricking.
  3. Use the lancet to prick the side of the finger or toe rather than the fleshy pad on the tip of the finger or toe (pricking the pad is more painful). It is often helpful to place the finger on a table. This helps prevent the natural reflex of withdrawing the finger when it’s poked.
  4. Put the drop of blood on the test strip. (If a test strip has been in a cooler or refrigerator, bring it to room temperature before you use it.) Make sure you completely cover the required area on the strip with blood. Putting too small a drop on the strip is a common error.
  5. Put the strip in the blood glucose meter to measure the sugar level.

    If you are using color-changing strips, compare the color to the color chart on the package at the appropriate time. You will have to use a watch with a secondhand or a kitchen timer and be careful to check the level after the exact amount of time required according to the package directions.

Avoid incorrect blood sugar results by making sure:

  • Your meter is clean.
  • The test strip is not outdated.
  • The meter is set up for the current box of test strips.
  • The meter and test strip are at room temperature.
  • Your blood drop is big enough.

Do I have to prick a finger or toe?

You can prick other parts of the body. Pricking other sites, like the forearm, may not hurt as much. Other places to test include the fleshy part of the hand, upper arm, thigh, and back of the lower leg. The lancet blade or needle must be dialed to the maximum depth to get enough blood from these sites. Make sure you have a meter that works for these testing sites.

The main problem with not using a fingertip is that the blood flow through other parts of the body, like the arm, is slower than through the fingers. The slower blood flow means the blood sugar value is 10 minutes behind the blood sugar value in the fingertip. If you are going to prick another site, like the arm, rub the site before pricking. Rubbing increases blood flow in the area.

If you are having symptoms of low blood sugar, prick your fingertip. It’s faster and you will know what your blood sugar level is more quickly.

A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) may be useful if you take frequent insulin doses to keep your blood sugar in a very narrow range. A CGM can display and record glucose readings every 1 to 10 minutes, day and night, using a sensor placed under the skin. A CGM can be set to sound an alarm when blood sugar reaches a certain low or high point. Ask your healthcare provider how often you should do a sugar test of blood from your finger to make sure the CGM is working accurately.

When should I do a blood sugar test?

Your healthcare provider will tell you when and how often you need to check your blood sugar.

Some common testing times include first thing in the morning, before meals or exercise, before driving, at bedtime, and any time you feel like your blood sugar may be too high or too low. You should also check your blood sugar when you are feeling ill.

You may need to test more often when your medicine is changed.

What should the blood sugar level be?

The desired blood sugar levels at different times are:

Ask your healthcare provider what upper and lower blood sugar goals he or she recommends for you. Also ask your provider to write down what you should do if your blood sugar result is too high or too low.

Should I keep written records?

Keeping good records to look for patterns in blood sugars is essential. Keep written records even if your meter is able to store results (in case the meter breaks). Write down the time of the test, the date, how you feel, and the blood sugar value. You may also want to note when you exercised, were sick, or felt stressed. It may be helpful to record what you ate for a bedtime snack or any evening exercise to see if these are related to morning blood sugars. Also, keep a record of when you have low blood sugar reactions and what you think might be possible causes. Always take your blood sugar records to checkups with your healthcare provider. You can then share this diary with your provider or diabetes educator and they can help you learn what affects your blood sugar, and this will help you control it better.

Blood Glucose Test: Tips for Accurate Results

Even simple things can affect the accuracy of finger-prick blood glucose testing. Learn more about what can affect your results.

Whether you’re experienced at using the finger-prick method for blood glucose testing or just getting started, it never hurts to have a little refresher on how to test properly so that you get the most accurate results for healthy diabetes management. Ask your doctor for a blood glucose test results chart so that you can quickly refer to it and ensure you are in a healthy range.

Note: Be sure to check your meter’s manual, as the correct testing procedure varies from one meter to another.

Your blood glucose meter is designed to read your blood sample when it’s applied in a certain way to the test strip, which includes: how much you apply, and how you apply it. Certain occurrences can result in inaccurate readings, such as smearing the blood sample on the blood glucose test strip, or not applying blood properly.

Tip: Try placing your finger on a table or hard surface to help keep your finger still.

  • Applying blood to the side of the test strip

Note: Some test strips do require top application, so first check how to properly apply a sample.

  • Not completely filling the test strip with blood (e.g., if you push the test strip against your fingertip).
  • Moving the test strip in the meter during the test.
  • Adding more blood to the test strip after you’ve moved the drop of blood away (this only applies to some meters, including OneTouch®).
  • Having food residue on your fingertips.

Even a small amount of sugar on your fingers can impact your results (for example, if you ate something sweet like a bowl of cherries and didn’t wash your hands). Tip: Remember to wash your hands with soap and water, even if your hands look clean. Dry them well and then test.

  • If your meter or test strips were exposed to extreme heat or cold.

Your meter and test strips have a range of temperatures in which they should be used (check your manual to see their range). For the most accurate results, test at room temperature.

Ensuring you keep your blood glucose levels well within your target range, is one of the most common goals for those with diabetes. You simply cannot monitor your blood glucose levels without using a lancing device that pricks your finger and allows you to measure using a drop of blood.
While diabetes management can be challenging and at times overwhelming, determining which types of supplies and products to use should not be. With so many different products on the market you can begin to feel like there is no right answer on which you should be using.

In this review, we’ll discuss the available types of lancing devices, their benefits and why they might be the best fit for you. Let’s take a look.

Care Touch Adjustable Lancing Device

The Care Touch Adjustable Lancing device is unique when compared to others on the market. It offers 10 adjustable depths to ensure you can get the blood sample you need. An included ejector button pushes out the lancet after it has been used so that you can replace it with a new one. It is compatible with most round types of lancets. Advanced technology offers precise delivery which allows for a less painful testing and a smaller blood sample.

to learn more.

Bayer’s Microlet 2 Adjustable Lancing Device

The Bayer Microlet Adjustable device gives you a comfort grip so that you can easily check your blood glucose whenever necessary. With five adjustable setting depths for your fingers. An easy grip gives you a precise and easy aim for smoother lancing. The ergonomic design means you will endure less painful testing with smaller blood samples for much easier testing.

to learn more.

I suggest reading the following articles:

  • Review of 7 Fast Acting Dextrose Gels
  • MyGlucoHealth Wireless Review
  • There’s No Such Thing as the Perfect Diabetic
  • Accu-Chek Meter Comparison Review

Accu Chek Fast Clix Lancing Device

The Accu Chek FastClix lancing device is the only lancing device that features 1 click testing. The lancets for the FastClix are conveniently stored in an easy to replace drum. This means you do not have to individually load your lancets one by one when its time to replace them. Instead, each drum stores up to 5 lancets, making it easier to test and requires lest changes. Because let’s face it, changing your lancet is something that those with diabetes don’t do as often as they would like. So here’s an easy and affordable solution to making sure you make these changes on a more frequent basis.

to learn more.

OneTouch Delica Lancing Device

The LifeScan OneTouch Delica is considered to be one of the most delicate lancing the devices on the market. It offers a thinner and shorter lancing need but still allows for an adequate amount of blood for testing to be drawn. The uniquely designed advanced glide control system provides a reduction in vibration for a much smoother lancing system. The ejection button provides you with a safe way to remove used lancets so you don’t have to risk an accidental prick. There are 7 depth settings that allow you to choose the right depth for the most comfortable testing.

to learn more.

Accu-Chek Soft Clix Lancing Device

The Accu-Chek Softclix lancing device was designed to be less painful with more ease of use. Created specifically for customized comfort levels to help minimize any pain or discomfort you may feel during testing. There are 11 different depth settings that allow you to choose a level that works best for you. The unique comfort design helps to reduce damage to your skin, creating less scar tissue. The lancing device can be used either detached or attached from the meter. The Softclix works with 28 gauge lancets to provide a penetration range from 0.8 to 2.3mm, allowing you to get the right amount of blood for testing each time.

to learn more.

Freestyle Lancing Device

The Freestyle Lancing Device comes with Freestyle brand meters, or it may be purchased separately. It is easy to use and provides you with minimal pain from testing. Personally designed with their own comfort zone technology to help reduce pain. The adjustable settings for depth provide you with a more individualized need for testing. The Freestyle Device is used with Freestyle Lancets which are ultra-thin, stainless steel 28 gauge needles. They are designed to create a more comfortable testing experience.

to learn more.

Genteel Lancing Device

The Genteel we’ve covered before, but it’s definitely one that should be included in the top lancing devices. While it’s new on the market, it’s definitely making a huge name for itself in a good way. It uses custom vacuum technology that is able to draw up the blood for testing. You don’t have to worry about squeezing and adding extra pain. You can also use the Genteel on alternative testing sites on the body. This will help save those fingertips from developing scar tissue like crazy. With the precise depth control feature you can choose from 6 different levels to get just the right depth. The Genteel is the only device that is FDA approved for alternative site testing. It can be used for children and adults with Type 1, Type 2, gestational and prediabetes. It also is compatible with many different types of lancets, making it easier and more affordable than most others on the market.

to learn more.

On Call Stealth Lancing Device

The On Call Stealth Lancing Device was created to provide you with the maximum comfort possible. It includes 11 different depth settings which allow you to use alternative sites such as your forearm and palm to test. The yellow button helps to show you when the lancing device is ready to use. There is even an included lancet ejector to help you avoid any accidental needle pokes when removing a used lancet.

to learn more.

FORA Safety Lancets

The FORA safety lancets were designed for one time use and do not require a lancing device to use them. They feature a 30 gauge 1.8mm depth lancet in an enclosed device. Each lancet is sterile and allows you to easily test anywhere, even when you are on the go. You don’t have to worry about changing and replacing the lancet with a new one each time. Instead test, and toss away and grab another when the time comes to test again.

TheDiabetesCouncil Article | Reviewed by Dr. Christine Traxler MD on September 08, 2018

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Last Updated: Saturday, September 8, 2018 Last Reviewed: Saturday, September 8, 2018

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Discussion

Among many difficulties and problems encountered by diabetic patients, daily experience of pain and soreness of the finger cannot be underestimated. Although the pain itself may not be a serious medical condition, it is indirectly associated with dire complications of diabetes. Patients’ reluctance to test blood glucose levels due to the fear of puncture pain is a well known cause of poor compliance among the diabetic patients. As confirmed in this open randomized clinical study, by reducing the lancet size to the 38 gauge and limiting its penetration depth to not more than 0.75 mm, needle puncture pain was virtually eliminated, and the amount of blood produced by a puncture with this very thin and short needle was at least 1.0 microliters, which was sufficient for the glucose test when patients use a modern glucose monitor. Recent advancement of technology even permits a glucose monitor to measure an accurate blood glucose level with only 0.3 microliters of capillary blood.2

The basis for using this painless needle puncture can be perceived from both a biological and psychological perspective. The Tiniboy™ lancet has an unusually thin and short needle that causes a very shallow and narrow puncture, probably hitting the capillaries in the superficial dermis thus sparing the pain nerve fibers below.

Anticipation of puncture pain can be minimized by using an extremely small needle, as a smaller needle is less intimidating to patients.

The skin consists of the epidermis and the dermis. Underneath the epidermis which has no blood vessels and negligible pain nerve innervations, the dermis is divided into two layers, the papillary layer above and the reticular layer below. Typically, the superficial portion of the papillary layer is arranged into ridgelike structures, the dermal papillae, which contain microvascular and neural components that sustain the epidermis. A vascular plexus, the rete subpapillare, demarcates the lower limit of the papillary dermis.3

The normal thickness of the epidermis of the middle fingers is about 0.3 mm, and that of the dermis 1.5 mm.4 The papillary layer has about 0.3 mm to 0.4 mm thickness.3

The Merkel’s cells in the epidermis and the Morgagni’s corpuscles in the papillary layer are nerve receptors for touch sensation.

Therefore, if a lancet needle penetrates the finger skin at 0.6 mm to 0.7 mm depth, it can hit the rete subpapillae, the superficial vascular structure of the papillary dermis without going deeper to the reticular dermis where abundant free nerve fibers are present. By penetrating up to the papillary dermis only, the lancet needle may hit the nerve receptors such as Merkel’s cells and Morgagni corpuscles, and patients feel something touching instead of unpleasant pain.

The limited penetration depth (maximum 0.75 mm) by the very thin needle (38 gauge) of the Tiniboy™ lancet is conjectured to be the reason why tested patients consistently reported no pain. The Tiniboy™ lancet’s revolutionary structure, employing a small pedestal, enables the functionality of the extremely thin and short needle. Commercially available lancing devices have an exit opening (where the lancet needle protrudes to puncture the skin) of about a 3 mm diameter, with a side wall of about 1 mm-thickness. Therefore, with the use of available lancing devices, a traditional lancet needle shorter than 1 mm cannot hit the skin; as such, therefore currently available lancets have about 3 mm-long lancet needle. However, the Tiniboy™ lancet is structured with a small pedestal of 2.25 mm height and 1.75 mm diameter at the distal end of the lancet body on which a 0.75 mm needle is mounted (Fig. 1). When the Tiniboy™ lancet needle penetrates the skin during the lancing procedure, the small pedestal, not the needle, passes through the exit opening. Because the total length of the Tiniboy™ (including the needle, pedestal and lancet body) is commensurate to that of traditional lancets, it can be used interchangeably with old style lancets in conjunction with standard lancing devices.

The length of a needle also influences the thickness of a needle. When the needle is very thin and long, it bends and can even break when it hits the skin, especially hard callused skin. Because of the pedestal’s ability to pass through the exit opening of a lancing device, the lancet needle can be shorter than 1 mm, and as a result, the needle is able to be very thin without the risk of bending or breaking.

Another possible reason for the painless puncturing is less total dwelling time of the lancet needle inside the skin after the lancing actuation because of the smaller total surface area of contact between the skin and the lancet body and needle due to the smaller distal surface of the pedestal in contact with the skin as well as the less total surface area of the thinner and shorter lancet needle. Simply the friction between the skin and the lancet needle and body is less. If the surface area of the distal end of the pedestal is larger, patients may experience more puncture pain because the increased friction between the skin and the lancet body.

One can not underestimate the psychological aspect of pain when measuring the intensity of pain. Pain perception is influenced not only by the actual wound size but also by psychological factors. Anticipating pain is perceived as actual pain.5 It is especially true when diabetic patients puncture the finger skin themselves.

The psychological aspect of pain anticipation was considered as an important factor in measuring the pain intensity in this study. Therefore, patients in this study were allowed to see the TiniBoy™ lancet before puncturing the skin as it was anticipated the pain could be less than with the control lancets, although, in general, it is preferable to design a randomized study using a double blind method.

This study has clearly demonstrated the advantage of the new lancet, which seems long overdue. However, the lack of a control group in the study may limit the validation to some degree. Nevertheless, the new lancet is significantly smaller and will undoubtedly produce less pain and be more practical to use in children. Strikingly, all 37 patients claimed no pain. Future study can aim to test whether improved compliance and better blood glucose control can be achieved by measuring the hemoglobin A1C in a randomized control trial using the new Tiniboy™ lancet.

Shares

Whether we like it or not, pricking our fingers is part of diabetes management. Yes, there are amazing advancements in CGM technology, including versions where finger sticks aren’t necessary, but for the vast majority of people with diabetes, a trusty glucose meter and a gentle lancing device are part of the daily process.

Lancing devices, back when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, used to be arduous. And painful. I used to use a device called the Autolet (known in our home as “the guillotine”) and it was a horrible thing, with a thick lancet that was spring-loaded and loud. It was not comfortable and it made the experience of checking my blood sugar less than optimal.

Today’s lancing devices are WAY better than the harpoons of yesteryear. We’ve come a long way with thinner lancets, gentler punctures, and even different ways of procuring that blood drop. Let’s take a look at some of the options on the market to see which device would be most appreciated by your fingertips.

Roche’s Accu-Chek Softclix ($25) claims to be “designed for comfort.” It’s precision guided technology minimizes painful side to side motion, and the 11 customizable depth settings make it easier to get the right amount of blood the first time. With a 28 gauge bevel-cut lancet, this lancing device can be used with one hand (thankfully, since you’re probably pricking a finger on the other hand).

Roche’s Accu-Chek Softclix

The Accu-Chek FastClix ($15), also made by Roche, is the only one-slick lancing device with a drum of six preloded lancets, so you don’t have to mess with lancet changes. (The Fastclix replaced the Muliclix version Roche had released previously.) The lancets are beveled 30 gauge and this device comes with the same option of 11 customizable depth settings, like the Softclix.

The One Touch Delica ($20)has lancets available in 30 gauge fine and 33 gauge extra-fine, and uses “advanced glide control system” which “offers reduced vibration for smoother lancing.” This device has 7 depth settings for you to choose from and has an ejection control to remove used lancets safely. (This is the lancing device that I use and it’s a far cry from the one I used upon diagnosis.)

One Touch Delica

The Genteel Lancing Device ($129) uses a new kind of technology to draw blood from a shallow poke. “Genteel creates a vacuum which pulls blood up from the shallow lancet puncture. Because of its Contact Tips, the lancet only goes in as far as is needed to let the vacuum extract blood.” The device comes with Contact Tips that determine the puncture depth of the lancet and the device can use any kind of square based lancet.

Genteel Lancing DeviceFreestyle Lancing device

Abbott offers the Freestyle Lancing device ($14), and this one offers ultra-thin, 28 gauge lancets, a patented “Comfort Zone Technology proven to reduce pain,” and adjustable depths for individual testing needs. This device also has a lancet release feature that makes disposing of lancets easier. (Make sure you’re tossing all your used lancets into a sharps container – more on supply disposal here.)

Microlet Next Lancing Device

Acensia makes the Microlet Next Lancing Device($19) which boasts a “smooth gliding mechanism” and a locking end-cap and lancet ejector to help prevent accidental finger sticks. This device has 5 available depth settings and pairs with silicone coated lancets designed to “glide smoothly into the skin.”

There are several off-brand lancing devices offered online –a quick search on Amazon brought out a bunch of options, including those listed above – so if you’re looking for more devices to check out, the Internet has you covered.

While every single one of these lancing devices talks about “pain free” or “minimal pain” in terms of their device, it’s important to remember that each device is designed to lance your skin, so keep your expectations managed. But it’s nice to have options other than the Guillotine (shudders), and we’re all for anything that makes monitoring and managing diabetes a little easier.

Cheers to happier fingertips!

(Note: All prices are pulled from the online stores that each manufacturer links to. You may be able to find these devices at cheaper prices through Amazon or other online retailers. Many manufacturers also offer coupons for lancing devices and meters, so do a search for those before purchasing.)

8 Tips to Reduce Finger Prick Pain

Managing diabetes can be a pain — literally. And the more blood sugar testing you do, the more of a pain it is, confirms Sacha Uelmen, RDN, CDE, director of nutrition for the American Diabetes Association. Still, monitoring blood sugar levels is a critical component of good diabetes management — research involving more than 5,000 people with diabetes has shown that those who test blood sugar regularly have better blood sugar control than those who rely solely on diabetes medication. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to lessen the pain that comes along with that testing. So if finger pricks make you feel like a voodoo doll, here are eight strategies to try:

1. Test on the Side of Your Finger

When doing diabetes blood sugar testing, resist aiming straight for all that real estate on the tip of your finger — that’s definitely painful. “When testing on your finger, use only the sides of your finger, where there’s better blood flow, and not the pad of the finger,” says Hector Verastigui, RN, CDE, clinical research coordinator at the Texas Diabetes Institute in San Antonio. “Testing on the pad of the finger is more painful.”

2. Warm Up Your Hands

Testing when your hands are cold can be more painful than when they’re warmer. To heat up your fingers, just sit on them briefly, rub them together, or give them a good scrub using warm water and soap. “This will get the blood flow going,” says Verastigui. When getting that all-important drop of blood is less painful, managing diabetes is easier.

3. Adjust the Lancet Depth

If blood sugar testing is always painful for you, it’s possible that your lancet is set to hit too hard or too deep. Part of managing diabetes includes adjusting the depth and force of the lancet properly. If you’re having trouble figuring out how to do this, or determining which depth will get you the least painful blood testing experience with the most accurate blood sugar monitoring result, work with a diabetes educator or the nurse in your doctor’s office. If you’re particularly sensitive, using a pediatric lancet could result in a less painful diabetes blood sugar test.

4. Skip the Alcohol Wipe

If you’re in the habit of using an alcohol wipe or an alcohol-based sanitizer to clean your finger before lancing, try washing with just soap and water instead. “We don’t recommend wiping the skin with alcohol because alcohol is an astringent, which tightens the skin and makes obtaining a blood sample more difficult,” says Verastigui. And that makes diabetes blood sugar testing more painful.

5. Switch Fingers Regularly

When you’re managing diabetes, it’s easy to get in a habit of using the same finger — and the same spot on that finger — for blood sugar testing. This leads to calluses and scarring, even if you find there’s slightly less pain from the thicker skin. Instead, build on the advice to test on the sides of fingers by using a different finger every time. Testing on your thumb is an option as well, although Verastigui points out that since the thumb is used so often in day-to-day activities, the pain from testing there could last longer. Whether you’ll want to give your thumb a try is an individual choice.

6. Use a Fresh Lancet

Each lancet starts out nice and sharp. But if you use the same one repeatedly for your diabetes blood sugar testing, as many people try to do, it can become dull. This doesn’t bother everyone, but it could be contributing to your finger-pricking pain. Try changing the lancet with every blood sugar testing to see whether that reduces this diabetes pain.

7. Get the Best Monitor for You

Different blood glucose monitor systems require different depths, and some let you do blood sugar testing in different locations on your body. Consider making a switch if your current one is just too uncomfortable for regular diabetes management. Also make sure you know how to use your system properly. Verastigui suggests sticking with brand names and avoiding too-good-to-be-true sales pitches.

8. Experiment

Finding your blood sugar testing “sweet spots” may take some trial and error. For the most successful management of your diabetes, you might want to investigate . This means testing your diabetes blood sugar levels on other parts of your body at times when you aren’t worried about the possibility of low blood sugar. Work with a diabetes educator to learn whether the palm of your hand, a thigh, an arm, or another body part would be a good option, to give your fingers a rest. Your palm can be a particularly good alternative, says Uelmen.

All glucose monitors work in a similar way, but some have features and options that might better suit your particular needs. Talk with your doctor or diabetes educator about which model matches your monitoring requirements, lifestyle, and budget.

Cost
Don’t look at the retail price of the meters alone. What makes blood glucose monitoring expensive is the test strips, which you might use many times a day. At $18 to $184 per 100 test strips, the cost can add up to about $265 to $2,685 per year for people who test four times a day. Replacement lancets are another expense to consider.

Insurance
Medicare covers some diabetes-related supplies, and private insurance might cover some of the cost. See whether there are certain brands of meters and test strips that your insurance covers. Find out how many test strips, if any, are covered per month. Your strip coverage may depend, for example, on whether you use insulin.

Automatic Coding
Blood glucose meters need to be calibrated to each batch of test strips. Some require you to enter a code or download an app so that you can scan the codes with a smartphone. Entering this information incorrectly can result in inaccurate results. Other models use a removable code chip to calibrate the meter to each batch of strips.

Data Storage
The most convenient blood glucose meters store at least 360 test results. Some also track the average of your readings over seven, 14, or 30 days to give you a view of your overall blood sugar control. If you check your blood glucose frequently, consider buying a model with more memory.

Test Time
The difference of a few seconds might not seem like much, but when you’re using a meter three to five times a day, a longer test time can be a nuisance. Our panelists found that 5 seconds or less was desirable.

Markers and Flags
These features allow you to note whether a reading was taken before or after a meal or exercise.

Unit Size
If you need to test while you’re on the go, look for a compact meter. Some larger models store multiple strips so that you don’t need to load one for each test, but our panelists found them to be bulky. Still, these models might make home testing more convenient, especially for people with dexterity or vision difficulties. Most models require a watch-style or medical battery, but consider getting a model that uses AAA batteries, which might be easier to replace.

Blood-Sample Size
Today’s blood glucose meters require smaller blood samples than those from years past. That makes testing less painful. If you’re sensitive to lancing, look for a meter that requires less than 1 microliter of blood.

Five tips for how to avoid pain when checking your blood

Measuring your blood sugar shouldn’t hurt too much. However, many people with diabetes complain about it hurting, or even about an unpleasant and unsightly development of calluses at their fingertips.

But it doesn’t have to be this way if you keep an eye on a couple of things while measuring.

I myself grew up with diabetes. Back then, over 20 years ago, lancing devices resembled rather a guillotine. Or a steel lancet got simply rammed into your finger. How deep the needle or lancet went in was truly a crapshoot. Ouch! When I take a close look at my fingers these days, I have to admit: all is well! No calluses, no “bullet holes“. Neither incrusted nor pricked all over or reddened.

Unfortunately, these days patients rarely receive training on how to best measure their blood sugar levels, when it could be such an easy-peasy thing to do. You really just have to consider a few things:

1. The Lancing Device Nowadays’ lancing devices all work the same way in principle: Almost every device offers the function of adjusting the depth of the needle pricking your finger. However, make sure to start with a light setting and work your way towards the correct penetration depth.

The smallest number on the scale is the setting with the lowest penetration depth. There are also special devices/products that are specifically designed to hurt less! One of these is the Accu-Chek® FastClix Lancing Device. This device allows for priming and releasing with one click and has 11 different depth settings! Another great device is the Genteel Lancing Device which uses vacuum and depth control to restrict the lancet from hitting any nerve endings, thus eliminating any pain.

Taking the Sting Out of Fingersticks: Lancets, Life Hacks and More

By Marcia Kadanoff with Katie Bowles

Tips to reduce the pain and hassle of pricking your finger each time you check your blood sugar levels on a meter

When I was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes two years ago, I struggled quite a bit. I had to change my diet and reconsider my exercise regimen, and I was suddenly made aware of data that had never existed in my world before – A1C and blood sugar numbers swirled around in a confusing mix that I not only had to track, but also keep on target. It seemed impossible.

For me, the hardest of these was learning to check my blood sugar. What do the numbers mean? How can I force blood to come out of my fingers when it seems like there isn’t any left? I have to do this how many times a day?!

These days, I’m incredibly lucky to use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) that helps me avoid those painful, frustrating fingersticks (both the Abbott FreeStyle Libre and Dexcom G6 eliminate the need for daily fingersticks). However, plenty of people with diabetes don’t have access to a CGM, don’t want something on their body, or aren’t aware of this technology. This article is for you.

Question 1: Does checking your blood sugar have to hurt?

After receiving a type 2 diagnosis, I assumed that finger prick pain just had to be a part of my life – I couldn’t possibly avoid it if I was regularly checking my blood sugar, right?

Wrong.

While nothing completely takes away the sting, you can take measures to reduce pain and make it much more bearable. I’ve found that pricking the sides of my finger pads (instead of the pads themselves) helps greatly. Additionally, not using an alcohol wipe to prep my finger also helped with sensitivity for me. Alcohol dries out and tightens the skin (alcohol is an astringent), making it harder for the lancet to poke through the skin. Of course, you must make sure your hands are washed before a fingerstick; otherwise you could have a false high blood sugar. When I can’t wash my hands, at minimum I wipe away the initial (first) drop and place a second drop on the strip.

Another hack that many people with diabetes use is to not change your lancet after every fingerstick. Notably, experts have found that this hack – while it can reduce costs – may increase pain because the tip gets blunted, which may increase the risk of infection and therefore is not recommended.

Question 2: Am I doing this right?

When you’re diagnosed, your healthcare provider might show you how to check your blood sugar. However, this isn’t guaranteed. I was diagnosed during routine bloodwork and unfortunately wasn’t taught how to check my blood sugar during the diagnosis. Even if you’re lucky enough to receive this information, there’s a pretty good chance that you won’t remember everything your doctor tells you. The diagnosis can be overwhelming and filled with information, much of which is overshadowed by the scary thought of “I have diabetes.” I definitely didn’t remember everything when I walked out after being diagnosed.

Between myself and my daughter, we could not figure out how to use a coded blood glucose meter (an older type of glucose meter – I recommend avoiding these). I found the process counterintuitive and often used it incorrectly, resulting in multiple painful finger pricks and a lot of frustration. Perhaps I’m unusually bad at figuring out fiddly strips and devices, but I – like many type 2s – got zero education on this topic. It was almost comical how long it took us to learn that I had to bring the strip sideways to the drop of blood on my finger instead of trying to “dab” my blood on the top of the strip! I found videos like this one were very helpful (and plentiful):

I eventually found a simpler meter from One Drop (a nearly identical model is offered through Amazon Choice), which worked better because it was just put in the strip and push a button for the reading (until I got on CGM). This worked particularly well for me because I wasn’t using my insurance (due to a high-deductible plan), but I could subscribe without insurance for an affordable monthly cost.

And, check out our article on “How to Get More Strips on a Budget”

Question 3: I’ve successfully checked my blood sugar. Now what?

Senior editor Adam Brown is fond of saying, “Blood sugars are not tests.” Sure, you’ll always have a goal in mind – mine is 70-140 mg/dl – but if you “fail,” there will be plenty of opportunities to try again. That’s where the data from your readings comes in.

For example: This morning, I woke up and checked my levels before eating breakfast and received a reading of 140 mg/dl. This isn’t high for a lot of people, but (based on my past data and the hard work I’ve put in since being diagnosed) it is for me – my typical blood sugar ranges from 80 to 100 mg/dl. (I’m only on metformin.) With a reading of 140 mg/dl, I felt I needed to take action.

For me, this action is having a low-carb breakfast. To make things easier (particularly before I’ve had my coffee), I stick to a regular rotation of breakfasts:

  • Nonfat yogurt with a small amount of dark chocolate for flavoring*

  • 1 slice of whole wheat sprouted toast with natural/low sugar peanut butter

  • 1 slice of whole wheat sprouted toast with avocado

  • 1 slice of quiche – without the crust – plus bacon

  • 1-2 chicken sausages*

  • 2 eggs plus bacon*

The breakfasts marked with an asterisk are lower carb, and I know how my body will respond to them after checking my blood sugar again an hour after eating.

Thanks to this data, I’ve also learned that drinking a big glass of water and walking after breakfast will cause my blood sugar to drop. Again, keep in mind that everyone’s body is different – what works for me may not work for you, but using your data is the only way to know for sure.

As a perfectionist, I also had to learn that there is no “perfect score” when it comes to blood sugar. It’s not a test. My goal is to keep it within a certain range for as much of the day as possible. For me, that range is 70 to 140 mg/dl (4-8 mmol/l), but for someone else, it could be 80 to 150 mg/dl, and so on. Just like choosing lancets, it’s best to listen to your body (this time via the data in your reading).

Question 4: I tried to check my blood sugar and couldn’t get any blood out of my fingers. What should I do?

Even after learning ways to lessen the pain and finding a meter/lancets that worked for me, I still occasionally struggled to get blood out of my fingers in the mornings – my cold hands just wouldn’t cooperate. On top of the temperature, I also have diabetic neuropathy in my hands and feet.

After many frustrating mornings, I began following the recommended procedure below, and it made a world of difference:

  1. Wash your hands in warm water. This removes any food residuals if you’re testing post-meal, and the temperature encourages blood flow.

  2. Rather than towel-drying, dry your hands by dropping them by your hips, pointing at the floor and flapping them around (think Phoebe’s running style on Friends). You’ll feel ridiculous, but this method really helps the blood flow. If your hands aren’t completely dry at this point, use a towel, as wet hands can result in a falsely low reading.

  3. Once your hands are warm and dry, use the lancet on the side of your “favorite” finger. This may be mostly mental, but when it’s early morning and my hands are cold, using a tried-and-true finger (left little finger, for me) really helps.

One additional tip from Virginia Valentine, a certified diabetes educator (CDE) with type 2 diabetes on diaTribe’s advisory board:

“I have found many patients complaining of pain and then I notice their lancing device is dialed up to “stun.” I dial it down to 2 or 3 and they are totally skeptical but here is the trick: Press the lancing device really firmly against the side of the finger before you hit the button. When you take the lancing device away from your finger you may think “nothing happened” but then when you squeeze from the base of the finger you will get a good size drop of blood.”

Question 5: Which lancet/lancing device should I use?

Lancets and lancing devices are not one-size-fits-all. And while the abundance of options is great, it can also be overwhelming. To find the right pairing for you, it’s best to consider your priorities. Do you want the least amount of pain (smallest needle)? Do you need something large that’s easy to grip? Do you want a bigger needle gauge that’s more likely to work on the first try? If you have particular issues such as tendonitis, talk to a CDE for recommendations.

For me, convenience was a priority, so I chose the Accu-Chek FastClix ­– it’s got a drum feature which means I don’t have to bring lancets with me when I travel which I always seem to forget.

Other popular lancing devices include LifeScan’s OneTouch Delica, a smaller device that offers two sizes of lancets, and the FreeStyle Lancing Device, which provides multiple depth settings. Playing around with lancet size and depth can help with pain.

Finally, if accuracy is more of an issue than pain, you can try the TrueDraw, a larger device that’s easier to hold.

Once you’ve determined your priorities and which devices you want to try (no shame in trying multiple, if you have the means), make sure you’re buying the correct equipment. Some lancing devices require their own lancets, while others work with multiple brands – you can find this information on the product website.

Additionally, make sure you don’t overpay for lancets and lancing devices. Most can be purchased on the product website or in pharmacies, but you can also generally find them on Amazon (often along with helpful reviews). Doing a little research can save a lot of money! Keep an eye out for coupons, and if you have health insurance, always check with your provider to see what (if anything) is covered.

Question 6: What about strips?

When it comes to strips, more is more – many brands now offer device/supply bundles that include an unlimited supply of strips. One example is the One Drop subscription ($49.95/month, no insurance required), which I used. This monthly subscription includes a meter, unlimited test strips (you can request more at any time) and diabetes coaching, which is very handy for people new to diabetes management.

Another similar unlimited strip option is the mySugr bundle ($49/month, no insurance required). This package also includes a meter (the Roche Accu-Chek) and diabetes coaching, and adds access to the mySugr Pro app, which syncs with the meter to provide assistance with nearly every aspect of management.

Both of these packages come with highly rated meters, per the Diabetes Technology Society’s recent Blood Glucose Monitor System (BGMS) Surveillance Program. The meter included in the One Drop subscription is the same as the CVS Advanced from Agamatrix, which received a score of 97%, and the Roche Accu-Chek came in at 95%. If you’re considering other meters, it’s wise to check out the results of this study – an accurate meter makes a world of difference in blood sugar stability.

The takeaway from all of this? Blood sugar monitoring will probably never be fun – but it also shouldn’t ruin your day, and is an important part of self care for people with diabetes.

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