Healthy Living

Are Those Daily Pricks Really Necessary for Diabetes?

Are Those Daily Finger Pricks Really Necessary for Diabetes?

One thing that diabetic patients know all too level is the daily pricks to their finger they have to do to monitor their blood sugar. 

Some patients say they just get used to pricking their fingers and others say it is virtually painless. But still, others claim that after several years of pricking their fingers for blood testing it hurts just the same as when they first used their monitoring machine.

If you are one of the patients who feel pain with every little prick, here are seven ways to make blood sugar testing less painful:

  1. Avoid the tip of your finger. The fingertip is pretty sensitive and has more nerve endings than the other parts of your finger, which can be painful for your digits. Try to use the side of the finger instead since it's just as effective. 
  2. Don’t use alcohol, it can dry out your skin and causes cracking and pain.
  3. Vary the fingers you use. Don’t use the same site over and over again because your finger is not a pincushion. 
  4. Don’t reuse equipment. Use a new lancet every time you check your blood sugar. Lancets can get dull, and it will hurt if you use them until they are worn down.
  5. Don’t squeeze blood from your finger. If you aren’t getting enough blood to test, hang your hand down below your waist for about five seconds.
  6. Use the right blood-glucose monitor. There are some monitors on the market that require less blood than other monitors. If you're not getting enough blood to test, maybe try investing in a new model so you can use it to get enough for a reading. 
  7. Use your thumb. This digit is usually callused which makes it less painful when you stick it.

Do you really need to test your blood multiple times a day?

Those with type 1 or 2 diabetes have lost the ability to control the level of glucose in their bloodstreams. When glucose levels increase in your bloodstream, your body generally sends out chemicals, like insulin, to pull the glucose out of the bloodstream and move it into other issues. Type 1 diabetes means you are suffering damage to the cells in your pancreas that secretes insulin. Glucose levels rise radically in response to eating, and many patients experience severe illnesses from high blood glucose and need to use insulin in the form of injections and carefully monitor their blood sugar levels.

Those with type 2 diabetes generally have a functioning pancreas and don’t usually experience life-threatening high glucose levels after eating. Their capability to control blood glucose levels has declined because of obesity or being overweight.

To keep patients with type 2 diabetes healthy, physicians urge them to check their blood sugar at least once a day to monitor their levels of glucose. Doctors are usually trained to have their patients test their blood sugar levels multiple times a day to establish a pattern. But, patterns help to determine the level of insulin to prescribe. However, those with type 2 diabetes have trouble finding patterns, and it becomes frustrating when you have glucose readings that are all over the board. It is almost better to use blood tests like the A1C to get a running average of blood glucose levels often because it is much more helpful for patients who aren't sure of what they're doing.

Studies in JAMA Internal Medicine suggest that continual scrutinizing blood sugar levels does not improve glucose control for those with type 2 diabetes. Two groups of participants were asked to monitor their blood sugar levels each day. One group received a text message after each test to encourage them to keep using testing methods. Both groups experienced lower blood sugar for a bit, but within a year they were in no better control than those who didn’t take their daily tests. The result? It may not be necessary to prick your finger daily to test your blood sugar.

Other ways to test your blood

Having to prick your finger once a day to test your blood sugar levels is a reality call for those with diabetes. There are ways to test your blood in a painless way, but how accurate are they?

Dr. Theodor Koschinsky, MD, Ph.D., has studied the effectiveness of testing blood sugar levels instead in the forearm. He and his colleagues gave men with diabetes a high sugar content breakfast followed by intense insulin treatment. These blood levels were designed to make blood sugar levels go high then low. They used both a finger prick device plus a forearm device to check the blood sugar levels throughout the study at different times.

The amount of sugar in the blood dropped or rose rapidly, but only the finger prick test accurately caught these changes. After approximately 30 minutes, the forearm value caught up to those readings reported by the finger prick test. Dr. C. Kurt Alexander tests blood sugar for Roche Diagnostics who develop testing devices, and he found blood taken out of your forearm is not the same as blood taken from your fingers. Does this make a finger prick device more accurate?

Both these doctors agree, if you're not in an emergency situation, both of these doctors are useful. But, if you feel you are dropping in blood sugar, stick to the finger device. Dr. Alexander also suggests to use a finger prick device two hours after eating for accuracy.

Another way to monitor your blood glucose levels comes from researchers at Princeton University and this is non-invasive and uses a laser. It also doesn't involve any blood.

This device uses a specialized laser at your palm and measuring the amount of absorption by the sugar molecules in the body by targeting the dermal interstitial fluid. Princeton researchers claim that dermal interstitial fluid has a stronger correlation with blood sugar than actual blood.

However, the machine is not practical for home use, it is too cumbersome and expensive, but studies are working on making the device smaller, lighter, and more accurate.

No matter what monitoring device you use, the most critical issue is using it correctly. If you are okay with pricking your finger, then continue to do so until the other methods are perfected and available for everyday consumption.

Pricking your finger might not be the most comfortable way to monitor your blood sugar, but right now it is the most accurate and provides your doctor with the most information to help you control your blood glucose levels.