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Type 2 Diabetes: I Don't Take Insulin But I Prick My Finger at Least Twice a Day

A woman pricking her finger to test her blood sugarI've been sticking my finger for over 30 years and I don't require insulin but checking my sugar frequently has been invaluable to me over the years. (Photo: 123rf)

Let’s put it on the table: for people with type 2 who take metformin, testing your blood sugar with a finger stick is a drag. 

It’s annoying. It’s bloody. It’s easy to forget, particularly in the morning when you’re on your way to your first caffeine fix and have to stop and deal with the glucometer. It leaves little holes in your fingertips.  It makes you the immediate topic of conversation on nights when you’re dining with new friends and everyone at the table suddenly turns cub reporter: Why? When? How? 

I’ve been sticking my fingers for over 30 years. I’ve thought of all the angles. 

Yet, I still do it, once or twice a day.

But now, along comes a study saying that for type 2 people with diabetes who take metformin and are not in danger of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, all those finger sticks may be unnecessary. That the information gleaned from the readings is useless; that the important number is the A1C. 

It’s vital to note that in part, this study was driven by concerns over health costs. Among the patients cited for ‘overuse’ were those that used a median of two strips a day. While the costs of this averaged about $18 per patient, the study reported that it costs insurance companies about $325 annually. 

So, what’s a type 2 on metformin to do? Is it time to put your meter on the shelf? 

As far as I’m concerned (and as long as my insurance continues to cover my strips), I think no. Maybe I’m brainwashed, but over the years that I’ve been keeping careful logs, I’ve come up with a few reasons why testing is invaluable to me:

#1. I like to see how I’m doing.

Without finger sticks, I’d have no idea. Yes, I exercise and eat well, but anyone who has diabetes knows that at times, sugars have a mind of their own. A day that includes chocolate cake could yield a 99 on rising, while another time it could be a 200. These numbers are important, because it guides what I have for breakfast and other times of the day. Plus, illness and stress can also take a toll on glucose readings. 

#2. There is such a thing as a false low when you take metformin.

On rare occasions, when I exercise strenuously or skip lunch, I get the shakes, pale skin and unsteadiness associated with low blood sugar. I’ve come to know this as a ‘false low’, since when I take my sugar, I find out that I’m probably in the 70 to 83 range. The remedy for this is eating something or, at times, taking a glucose tablet. It isn’t as low as true hypoglycemia, but it’s scary none the less. Without my glucometer, I can’t really tell the difference.

#3. My endo has told me for years that the A1C is not the be all and end all.

He reads my logs, we discuss when and why my sugars were higher than normal. Together we talk about what I can do to change that, and together we talk about my medication plan, just as we talk about my diet and exercise plan. To him, and to me, my blood sugar log is more than just numbers—it’s a medical history that helps me to take part in and improve my care. 

When I first had diabetes, my endo asked me to take my sugars four times a day. Maybe that was too much; maybe not. But at the moment, absent more research, I’m not ready to abandon my finger sticks. It’s proved a loyal companion to my type 2 diabetes and me. 

 

 

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