What Is a Blood Glucose Test?
A blood glucose test measures
the amount of glucose in your blood. Glucose, a type of simple sugar, is your body’s main source of
energy. Your body converts the carbohydrates you eat into glucose.
Glucose testing is primarily done to check for type 1 diabetes,
type 2 diabetes, and gestational diabetes. Diabetes is a condition that causes your blood glucose level to
The amount of sugar in your blood is usually controlled by a
hormone called insulin. However,
if you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or the
insulin produced doesn’t work properly. This causes sugar to build up in your
blood. Increased levels of blood sugar can lead to severe organ damage if left
In some cases, blood glucose testing may also be used to test
for hypoglycemia. This
condition occurs when the levels of glucose in your blood are too low.
Diabetes and the Blood Glucose Test
Type 1 diabetes is
usually diagnosed in children and teenagers whose bodies aren’t able to produce
enough insulin. It’s a chronic, or long-term, condition that requires continuous
treatment. Late-onset type 1 diabetes has been shown to affect people between
the ages of 30 and 40.
Type 2 diabetes is
usually diagnosed in overweight and obese adults, but it can develop in younger
people as well. This condition occurs when your body doesn’t make enough insulin
or when the insulin you produce doesn’t work properly. The impact of type 2
diabetes may be reduced through weight loss and healthy eating.
Gestational diabetes occurs
if you develop diabetes while you’re pregnant. Gestational diabetes usually
goes away after you give birth.
After receiving a diagnosis of diabetes, you may have to get
blood glucose tests to determine if your condition is being managed well. A
high glucose level in a person with diabetes may mean that your diabetes isn’t
being managed correctly.
Other possible causes of high blood glucose levels include:
- prediabetes, which happens when you’re at increased
risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid
- kidney problems
- pancreatitis, or inflammation of your pancreas
- pancreatic cancer
In rare cases, high blood glucose levels could be a sign of kidney
failure, a hormonal disorder called acromegaly, or Cushing’s syndrome,
which occurs when your body produces too much cortisol.
It’s also possible to have levels of blood glucose that are too
low. However, this isn’t as common. Low blood glucose levels, or hypoglycemia, may
be caused by:
- insulin overuse
- hypopituitarism, or underactive pituitary gland
- hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid
disease, which is characterized by low levels of cortisol
- alcohol abuse
- liver disease
- insulinoma, which is a type of pancreatic tumor
How to Prepare for a Blood Glucose Test
Blood glucose tests are either random or fasting tests.
For a fasting blood glucose test, you can’t eat or drink anything
but water for eight hours before your test. You may want to schedule a fasting
glucose test first thing in the morning so you don’t have to fast during the
You may eat and drink before a random glucose test.
Fasting tests are more common because they provide more accurate
results and are easier to interpret.
Before your test, tell your doctor about the medications you’re
taking, including prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, and herbal
supplements. Certain medications can affect blood glucose levels. Your doctor
may ask you to stop taking a particular medication or to change the dosage
before your test temporarily.
Medications that can affect your blood glucose levels include:
- birth control pills
- hormone therapy
- atypical antipsychotics
- tricyclic antidepressants
- monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
- sulfonylurea medications
Severe stress can also cause a temporary increase in your blood
glucose and is usually due to one or more of these factors:
- heart attack
You should tell your doctor if you’ve recently had any of these.
What to Expect During a Blood Glucose Test
This simple test involves giving a small sample of blood.
Before drawing blood, the healthcare provider will clean the area
with an antiseptic to kill any germs. An elastic band will be tied around your
upper arm, causing your veins to swell with blood. Once a vein is found, a
sterile needle will be inserted. Your blood will be drawn into a tube attached
to the needle. You may feel slight to moderate pain when the needle goes in,
but you can reduce the pain by relaxing your arm.
When they’re finished drawing blood, the needle will be removed
and a bandage will be placed over the puncture site. Pressure will be applied to
the puncture site for a few minutes to prevent bruising.
The sample of blood is then sent to a lab for testing. Your
doctor will follow up with you to discuss the results.
Risks Associated with a Blood Glucose Test
There’s a very low chance that you’ll experience a problem during
or after a blood test. The possible risks are the same as those associated with
all blood tests. These risks include:
- multiple puncture wounds if it’s difficult to
find a vein
- excessive bleeding
- lightheadedness or fainting
- hematoma, or blood collecting under your skin
Understanding the Results of a Blood Glucose
The implications of your results will depend on the type of blood
glucose test used. For a fasting test, a normal blood glucose level is between
70 and 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). For a random blood glucose test, a
normal level is usually under 125 mg/dL. However, the exact level will depend
on when you last ate.
If you had a fasting blood glucose test, the following results
are abnormal and indicate you have either prediabetes or diabetes:
- A blood glucose level of 100-125 mg/dL indicates
that you have prediabetes.
- A blood glucose level of 126 mg/dL and higher
indicates that you have diabetes.
If you had a random blood glucose test, the following results are
abnormal and indicate you may have either prediabetes or diabetes:
- A blood glucose level of 140-199 mg/dL indicates
that you may have prediabetes.
- A blood glucose level of 200 mg/dL and higher indicates
that it’s likely you have diabetes.
If your random blood glucose test results are abnormal, your
doctor will likely order a fasting blood glucose test to confirm the diagnosis.
If you’re diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes, you can find more
information and additional resources at www.healthline.com/health/diabetes.