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Managing Diabetes: Your Guide to Blood Sugar Monitoring in the UK

Written by: Content Team



Time to read 8 min

Monitoring blood sugar levels is a way to understand your diabetes and how different foods or lifestyle choices affect it. While it could be beneficial for everyone to know how their blood glucose levels change based on their habits, it's an especially important task for the almost five million people in the UK currently living with this condition.

There are several ways to effectively monitor blood sugar, which this article will present in full. Learn about the methods below, and see which is most convenient.

Why It's Important to Monitor Blood Sugar

Here are some of the top benefits of monitoring blood glucose levels when dealing with diabetes:

Helps You Manage Your Diabetes Plan

Weighing your fruits & vegetables
Weighing your fruits & vegetables. Source: DepositPhotos

Diabetes management doesn't only involve medications to maintain blood glucose levels. Many patients must also make significant changes to their daily lifestyle to support their treatment.

Regular blood sugar testing can help you understand how your body responds to these changes and whether you need additional help.

One of the first changes you'll need to make concerns diet, particularly the amount of carbohydrates you consume. Monitoring your blood sugar levels before and after meals helps you adjust your diet.

According to the NHS, exercising can also help reduce blood sugar spikes after meals, but not all physical activities are recommended for people with diabetes. For example, you should avoid high-intensity workouts, especially if you have a type 1 diabetes diagnosis. Regular testing, especially in the beginning, can reveal if the exercise plan is suitable for your condition.

Prevents Diabetes Complications

With better diabetes management also comes the reduced risk of complications.

High blood sugar levels can lead to diabetic neuropathy, which causes tingling, pain, or numbness in the feet. This condition is called diabetic foot, and lack of care could cause the development of a foot ulcer.

Another common complication is the development of periodontal gum disease. It's treatable, but improper management can cause constantly inflamed gums or tooth loss.

Reduces Anxiety Associated with Managing Diabetes

People with diabetes may get anxious about their blood sugar levels, especially when unaware of them. Those with type 2 diabetes are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and ineffective disease management plays a crucial role in this.

Better Comprehension of Treatment Plan

When you monitor your blood sugar, it's easier to have an idea of the effectiveness of your treatment plan.

Monitoring your levels frequently can also help your doctor decide if your treatment should change. In fact, they may even ask you to monitor your blood glucose more often in certain cases:

  • Loss of blood sugar control: If you're feeling sluggish than usual, your blood sugar could be too low or too high. The doctor may require you to change your dose frequency in those cases, and check your blood sugar levels more often to see if the treatment is more suitable.
  • Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle changes like your living situation, employment, and activity level are reasons your doctor may adjust your treatment plan.
  • You're pregnant: Pregnancy can affect blood sugar levels, so it's imperative to ensure that your treatment plan is suitable for you if you have type 2 diabetes and you're pregnant.

Improves Motivation to Practice Healthy Habits

Woman in meditation
Woman in meditation. Source:

When your blood sugar remains at the appropriate level, you may easily get motivated to keep practicing healthy habits since you can monitor the results of all your efforts.

This can improve your quality of life and make living with diabetes easier.

Ways to Monitor Blood Sugar

Here are the main ways to monitor your blood sugar:

Blood Glucose Meter (Glucometer)

The blood glucose meter is the most common option for monitoring blood sugar in the UK.

To use it, you need to prick your finger with a small lancet needle and place the drop of blood against the test strip in the glucose meter to check the result. For the best results, use this method several times a day, especially if you are insulin-dependent or have a stricter treatment.

Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM)

Blood Level trend on a glucose monitor
Blood Level trend on a glucose monitor. Source: DepositPhotos

Next to the glucometer, a continuous glucose monitor is also a common method for checking blood sugar. This device is also known as a flash glucose monitor, and it provides real-time glucose level readings every few minutes.

You need to insert a sensor under the skin, usually in the abdomen, to measure the intestinal glucose level and send data to a monitor or phone app. If your blood sugar becomes too low or high, an alarm beeps.

Urine Test

Urine tests can be part of your regular checks. The laboratory or clinic may test for the presence of ketones and glucose.

These tests can be used both at home and at the doctor's, though they are not as popular for at-home use since glucometers and CGMs are generally seen as more convenient.

HbA1c Test

HbA1c is a person's average blood glucose level for the last three months. For people with diabetes, the ideal HbA1c level is 40 mmol/mol or lower. However, if you are at risk of diabetes, your target HbA1c should be below 42 mmol/mol.

Though it's commonly used to diagnose the condition, your doctor may also perform it during your regular check-ups to confirm the treatment plan is suitable for you or adjust it if needed.

Tips for Successful Blood Sugar Monitoring

Some tips to help successfully monitor your blood glucose levels are:

  • Keep track of blood sugar meter and supplies: This includes your alcohol swabs, lancelets, and test strips. Ensure that your test strip is also not expired.
  • Establish a suitable routine for testing blood glucose levels: Work closely with your doctor to plan your routine for checking blood glucose levels to get the best result. Your blood sugar monitoring may be before a meal, after a meal, or before bedtime.
  • Don't always assume your blood sugar meter is correct: Take your blood sugar meter along with you to the next doctor's appointment to compare results. If your blood glucose level doesn't correlate with that of the meter, consider getting a new one.

How Often Should You Check Your Blood Sugar?

Testing blood sugar levels
Testing blood sugar levels. Source: DepositPhotos

How often you should check your blood glucose level depends on the type of diabetes you have and your lifestyle factors.

For Type 1 Diabetes

Your doctor may advise testing your blood sugar at least 4 to 10 times daily. If you have type 1 diabetes, you may need to perform tests at the following times:

  • Before eating major meals or snacks
  • Before and after exercising
  • Before bed
  • During the nighttime
  • More frequently if you're feeling sick
  • More frequently, when there's a change in daily routine, including starting a new medication

Many patients with type 1 diabetes opt for continuous glucose monitoring because they need more frequent daily testing. These devices prevent patients from pricking their fingers several times a day and can conveniently alert them if their blood sugar levels are too high or too low.

For Type 2 Diabetes

If you have type 2 diabetes and take insulin, your doctor may advise performing checks several times daily, depending on the insulin dose. If you don't take insulin, your testing frequency will likely be reduced, but you should still take your levels at least once daily.

What Happens When Your Blood Sugar is Low?

Syringe and a glucose monitoring device
Syringe and a glucose monitoring device. Source: DepositPhotos

Low blood sugar is also called hypoglycemia, and it occurs when a person's blood sugar falls below 70 mg/dL or 4 mmol/l. When one's low blood glucose is untreated, it could lead to other health problems.

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

Some of the common symptoms of low blood glucose levels are:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Sweating
  • Pounding heart
  • Anxiety
  • Intense hunger
  • Feeling shaky

As low blood sugar worsens, the following symptoms may become noticeable:

  • Confusion
  • Loss of coordination
  • Blurry vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Nightmares

Causes of Hypoglycemia

For someone with diabetes, one of the major causes of hypoglycemia is taking insulin. Too much insulin may cause blood glucose levels to drop significantly. It can also occur when you eat less than your typical meal size after taking a diabetes medication.

Other causes of hypoglycemia can include medications, excessive alcohol, sickness, long-term starvation, or hormone deficiencies.

Treating Hypoglycemia

If you experience some symptoms of hypoglycemia, consider taking the following steps:

  • Eat or drink 15 – 20 grams of carbohydrates: Take some form of sugary food or drink without fat or protein to easily convert into sugars in the body. Consider using honey, soda, or even hard candy.
  • Recheck blood sugar after 10 – 15 minutes: If your blood sugar is still low, take another drink or snack high in carbohydrates and check again after 15 minutes. Keep repeating this step until blood sugar is above 4 mmol/l.
  • Eat a snack or your meal: Once your blood sugar falls back in the standard range, eat a healthy snack or meal. This step is necessary to help your body replenish its glycogen stores.

What Happens When Your Blood Sugar is High?

A Glucose Monitor
A Glucose Monitor. Source: DepositPhotos

If your blood sugar level exceeds your intended targets, you may experience symptoms of hyperglycemia and need medical treatment.

Symptoms of Hyperglycemia

The different symptoms of high blood sugar are:

  • Headache
  • Frequent urination
  • Irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased thirst or hunger

Causes of Hyperglycemia

Several factors contribute to hyperglycemia, including:

  • Wrong dosage of insulin or glucose-lowering drugs
  • High levels of stress
  • Reduced physical activity
  • Sickness or infection
  • Consuming more carbs than usual
  • Physical trauma

Treating Hyperglycemia

When you observe symptoms of hyperglycemia, consider:

Increased Physical Activity

Exercising is a great way to maintain the appropriate glucose levels, especially with hyperglycemia. However, if you're on a medication that tends to reduce insulin, speak to your doctor to know if exercising is a good idea.

Improved Eating Habits

You can work with a nutritionist to create the best meal plans for managing carbohydrate intake. The following diet plans may be helpful:

  • Keto diet
  • Mediterranean diet
  • Vegan or vegetarian diet
  • Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet

Change in Treatment Plan

You should only change your treatment plan based on your doctor's advice. Your primary healthcare provider may reevaluate your treatment plan based on your health history and experience with hyperglycemia. They could change the type, timing, and amount of your medication.

See a Doctor Right Away

While the above methods can work to regulate slightly higher blood sugar levels, if you're experiencing severe symptoms of hyperglycemia, you should see your primary physician as soon as possible.

You should take an extra dose of rapid-acting insulin to regulate your levels and drink carb-free beverages, which can help lessen your symptoms. But, even if the crisis clears, you should seek medical attention regardless.


Blood sugar monitoring may be scary to many, mainly because they must always be aware of their health status. But, staying informed is best because it will save you from other complications relating to high or low blood glucose levels.

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Our needle-free solution to administering insulin will help you overcome the fear associated and allow you access to pain-free treatment.

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