New research has revealed that checking blood sugar with a finger-stick may not help type 2 diabetes patients who do not use insulin.
Type 2 diabetes is an epidemic afflicting one in 11 people in the US and for those treated with insulin, checking blood sugar with a finger-stick at home is an accepted practice for monitoring the effects of insulin therapy.
However, researchers from UNC School of Medicine found that the majority of type 2 diabetes patients are not treated with insulin. “Our study results have the potential to transform current clinical practice for patients and their providers by placing a spotlight on the perennial question, ‘to test or not to test’,” said Katrina Donahue, Professor at UNC School of Medicine.
Most of the 25 million people with type 2 diabetes in the US today do not take insulin but control their blood sugar with exercise, diet, and sometimes medications such as metformin.
Currently, 75 per cent of these patients also perform regular blood glucose testing at home, generally at the recommendation of a provider, despite an on-going debate about its effectiveness in controlling diabetes or improving how patients feel.
“Of course, patients and providers have to consider each unique situation as they determine whether home blood glucose monitoring is appropriate,” Donahue said.
“But the study’s null results suggest that self-monitoring of blood glucose in non-insulin treated type 2 diabetes has limited utility. For majority, the costs may outweigh the benefits,” she added.
The study that involved 450 patients suggested that patients living with diabetes should discuss the need for blood sugar monitoring with their health care providers.
“If together a patient and their provider decide that blood sugar monitoring is not necessary, patients could be spared hundreds of finger sticks and save hundreds of dollars every year, at least until insulin treatment is required,” the study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine noted.
Though proponents of blood glucose testing argue that daily testing promotes better awareness of glucose levels leading to improvements in diet and lifestyle, the research asserts that daily testing imposes not only a financial cost but can also take a mental toll, increasing the rate of depression or anxiety in some patients.