Blood Sugar Testing Terms Explained

Nov 15, 2023 12:00:00 AM / by Cassie Richardson, PharmD, BCACP, TTS

According to the CDC, 37.3 million Americans have diabetes and the majority of them need to check their blood sugar daily if not multiple times a day. That is why we are using this blog as an opportunity during National Diabetes Month to explain and help you understand the many terms used with blood sugar testing. We believe having and learning this information will allow you to better partner with your primary care doctor or advanced practice provider* (APP) to manage your diabetes and live your best life.


Terms to know:

○ Glucose: is another word for sugar. Glucose travels through your blood and is used by your body for energy. Everyone has glucose in their blood, and diabetes is when you have too much glucose in your blood. For more information on diabetes, please read our Diabetes 101: What is Diabetes? blog.

○ Blood glucose meter: A blood glucose meter is the device that tests how much sugar is in the blood sample and gives you a blood glucose reading. The supplies required to use a blood glucose meter include the meter, lancets and test strips. There are multiple blood glucose meter brands and which meter you use usually depends on what your insurance covers or if you pay for it out-of-pocket. You need a prescription from your doctor or APP for your insurance to help pay for a meter.

○ Test strip: A test strip collects the blood for the meter. They are sold separately from the blood glucose meter and are specific to the brand of blood glucose meter. Check with your doctor, APP or pharmacists if you have any questions about which test strips to use.

○ Lancing device: The lancing device holds the lancet, defined below. The lancing device usually comes with your blood glucose meter and may have different settings to control the depth of the poke from the lancet. People with calluses or thicker skin may need a deeper poke from their lancing device to draw a blood sample. The most common place to check your blood sugar is your finger; however, some lancing devices allow for alternative places to test. To make testing your blood sugar more comfortable, avoid the center of your fingertip as that is where your finger has the most nerves and instead test off center or on the side of your finger.

○ Lancet: A lancet is used to draw the blood for testing your blood glucose. Most lancets are intended to be used only once, and you should check the instructions to see if you have a multi-use or single use lancet. The type of lancet that fits into your lancing device is specific to the brand of lancet.

○ Continuous glucose monitors: are blood glucose meters that do not require you to draw blood for a sample. These monitors use a sensor, defined below, to allow a reading to be taken at any time. Continuous glucose monitors are growing in popularity, especially for patients who need to take insulin. Check with your doctor, APP or pharmacists to see if this is an option for you.

○ Sensor: A sensor is used with a continuous glucose monitor and is attached to your skin. It measures the level of glucose in your blood and communicates with your meter to tell you your blood sugar reading. The sensor will need to be changed on a schedule based on the brand of continuous glucose monitor you have.

○ Fasting blood glucose: A fasting blood glucose means a blood sugar reading taken at least 8 hours since the last time you ate or drank (excluding water). For most people, this is your lowest blood sugar reading of the day.

○ Pre-prandial blood glucose: The word prandial means with food. Therefore, a pre-prandial blood glucose reading is the reading you take before eating.

○ Post-prandial blood glucose: A post-prandial blood glucose is a reading taken after you eat. Your blood sugar naturally rises after a meal, and therefore, a post-prandial blood glucose reading should be taken 2 hours after eating.

Diabetes can be intimidating to manage, but by arming yourself with information about it and partnering with your doctor, APP and care team, you can learn how to best manage your diabetes so you can live your best life.


*An advanced practice provider is defined as a nurse practitioner or physician assistant.