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What are the Different Ways to Measure Glucose?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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There are many different ways to measure glucose, the simple sugar prevalent in the body, and a number of reasons to perform such testing. Frequently, glucose measurements are taken to look for high or low levels of glucose amounts, to check for conditions that suggest diabetes or diabetes during pregnancy, to monitor sugar levels in a person with diabetes, and sometimes to screen for infectious illnesses like spinal meningitis or others. The way glucose levels are tested may correspond to the purpose of the test.

One simple way to measure glucose is to look for it in a urine sample. This is commonly done during pregnancy to evaluate the urine for high levels of sugar, and the test usually takes place during routine pregnancy examinations. Should sugar levels be high, doctors may choose to measure glucose in other ways to get more accurate readings and to confirm levels. This is important because higher glucose amounts can suggest conditions like gestational diabetes.

Confirmation of high glucose in pregnancy usually involves blood testing. A simple venipuncture takes blood and the lab will measure glucose from this sample. Blood testing can actually be conducted in many different ways, at any time high or low sugar amounts are suspected; it is not exclusive to pregnancy.

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People might drink a high glucose drink an hour before testing to determine tolerance of the sugar, called a tolerance test. Alternately they may need to fast first to get an accurate reading. Blood and urine samples could be required to compare results or tests could need to be repeated a few times.

Another way to measure glucose, and to make the process more convenient than heading to a lab every day, is to use a monitor at home. This also evaluates glucose count in blood, but it takes a much smaller or finger prick sample that is collected by the person taking the test. Especially when someone has conditions like diabetes, daily monitoring might be necessary and could help determine what medication strengths are required.

These monitors are typically referred to as diabetes testing monitors or equipment. They may not replace the need for more extensive blood testing on a regular basis, but they might cut down on the number of trips to the lab that are needed. They can also provide people with greater freedom in daily activity, once people are properly trained to use the testing equipment and to interpret results.

It’s common to think that the main means to measure glucose is by evaluating blood or urine samples, but sometimes this isn’t the case. Certain infections and diseases affecting the central nervous system can greatly decrease glucose levels in spinal fluid or other types of fluid in the body. Doctors may tap these areas, particularly the spine, as a form of diagnosing such diseases. Spinal taps or other fluid taps are the most risky ways to measure glucose levels, but they may be necessary when some diseases are suspected.

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