Getting Accurate Blood Glucose Test Results

How to Reduce Errors when Testing Blood Glucose Levels

For the most part, blood glucose meters—devices that measure and display blood glucose levels—are simple to use and provide readings you can trust. But they aren't perfect and inaccurate readings are possible. Extremely high or low readings that are made in error can have serious consquences. Inaccurate readings happen for a variety of reasons, including human error. But the error can usually be corrected without much effort. Here are some common mistakes users make along with tips to help you improve the reliability of your device and your test results. 

Blood Glucose Meter
But first, it's important to note that if you get a reading that seems way off—especially one that doesn't match your symptoms—always perform a re-test. When re-testing, take your time to ensure you are using the strips and the device correctly and repeat the procedure. If you get a similar reading again, call your healthcare professional or the phone number on the back of the meter as malfunctions can occur and product recalls happen periodically.

The following factors can impact meter accuracy.If you find you are contributing unintentionally to the problem, take the necessary steps to get the right results:

  • Be sure your meter and hands are clean. It seems like a no-brainer, but a dirty meter can alter your reading. Clean your meter regularly, and before you do a reading, wipe off any noticeable blood, dirt, or grease. It's also vital to perform your test on a clean fingertip. Wash your hands with soap and warm water before extracting a blood sample.
  • Be aware of test strip issues. Make sure your test strips are compatible with your meter. Saving money by purchasing less expensive strips that are not designed to work with your meter is a bad idea. Be sure the strip is inserted correctly into the meter. Test strips have expiration dates so check prior to using them. Using an expired test strip can also result in an accurate reading. Proper storage is important. Keep stored at room temperature -- away from heat and humidity.
  • Recognize problems with your monitor. As with test strips, glucose meters should also be stored at room temperature. Replace your meter's battery when necessary.
  • Enter the correct test strip code. Each time you run a test ,be sure the proper test strip code from the outside of the test strip bottle is entered into the meter correctly. The current process has been streamlined to make it easier for the user.For example, today's One Touch's strips all have the code 25; Freestyle is 16. But, just because these strips have the same code number, user error could still accidentally change it in the  meter, creating issues and causing inaccurate results. So, experts advise always checking to be sure the codes match up.
  • Use the correrct amount of blood on the test strip. Using too little blood -- not filling the test strip completely -- is another cause of inaccurate readings.  
  • Take blood from your fingertip. Fingertips are the most common areas to test, but if you're using a different location -- your upper arm, for example -- and you think the reading is wrong, test it again using a sample from your fingertip.In a circumstance when you feel your blood glucose levels are rising or you have low blood glucose, do not test blood from an alternate site. The fingertip is the most accurate place to get a blood sample, especially if you have just eaten or taken insulin. 
  • Do a quality-control check using the test solution that comes with your device. Another way to check accuracy is to run a test with the test solution.Follow the manufacturer's directions. Some meters have electronic test strips that signal you if there is a malfunction.

Other Tips for Getting Accurate Blood Glucose Test Results

To make sure your meter is working properly, bring it to your next doctor's appointment and take a reading using the meter. Compare your reading to the doctor's lab test result.

Ask your healthcare provider to check your technique. He or she can observe you as you test your blood and may provide valuable feedback and other helpful tips. If your doctor spots a problem with your meter, he or she can help you address it.

For additional help with your meter, remember you can always call the phone number on the device or consult the manufacturer's website for information such as answers to frequently-asked questions.

Taking simple steps to insure blood glucose reading accuracy should be part of your routine. Successful diabetes management depends on accurate readings so don't hestitate to contact your health care provider whenever you are concerned.

First published on: June 1, 2012
Updated on: October 30, 2015
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