Many diabetics patients needlessly test blood sugar at home
One in seven people with type 2 diabetes may be needlessly testing their blood sugar at home several times a day, a U.S. study suggests.
People with type 2 diabetes don’t need to test their blood at home if they have well controlled symptoms and don’t take medications that can cause dangerously low blood sugar, doctors say. For these patients, studies have not found that home blood sugar monitoring makes any difference in blood sugar levels. But still, many of them are pricking their fingers unnecessarily.
For the current study, researchers examined data on more than 370,000 people with type 2 diabetes. Overall, almost 88,000, or about 23 percent, had at least three insurance claims for test strips used to check blood sugar at home.
More than half of the people testing their blood sugar at home didn’t need to do this, accounting for 14 percent of the total study population, researchers reported in JAMA Internal Medicine.
“Many type 2 diabetes patients not using insulin or other medications at risk of rapid changes in blood sugar levels are testing far more often then they need to be,” said lead study author Dr. Kevin Platt of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, is linked to obesity and aging and happens when the body can’t properly use or make enough of the hormone insulin to convert blood sugar into energy. Left untreated, it can lead to complications like blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage, and amputations.
Many patients can keep their blood sugar in a healthy range with oral medications and don’t need insulin. Unlike insulin, which immediately affects blood sugar and requires regular testing to ensure blood sugar is in a healthy range, most pills for diabetes don’t require regular testing because they don’t cause rapid shifts in blood sugar, Platt said.
Among people in the study who appeared to be needlessly testing blood sugar at home, about 33,000 individuals were taking medications that aren’t known to cause dangerously low blood sugar and another 19,000 were not taking any diabetes medicines at all.
Half of the patients doing unnecessary blood sugar tests at home did these tests at least twice a day, and half of them had testing supply costs of at least $325 a year, the study found.
Patients should discuss their home blood sugar testing needs at every checkup, advised Dr. Vanessa Arguello of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Diabetic patients who are not using insulin or are not taking medications that may cause low blood sugars can monitor their blood sugars less frequent from twice daily to every other day based on their diabetes goals established by the individual and their physician,” Arguello added.