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New Study Finds No Reason for Glucose Monitoring in Some Type 2 Diabetics

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July 19, 2017

Diabetics who are treated with insulin are instructed to check their glucose levels routinely so that they can adjust their insulin doses if levels are too high or too low. Many type 2 diabetics who are not treated with insulin use self-monitoring to help check whether their glucose levels are under control. Now a new study on regular glucose monitoring for people with non-insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes has found that for these patients, daily monitoring of glucose levels did not improve either the patients' glucose control or their quality of life. As a result of the study, the authors suggest these patients should not routinely monitor their glucose levels. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine and presented at the recent Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association.

People with type 2 diabetes, the most common form in the U.S., may produce insulin, but they either do not produce enough or their body has become resistant to its effects. Treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Type 2 diabetics range from those who can control their glucose levels with diet and exercise, to those who take oral medications, to those who need to take daily insulin injections. Though many type 2 diabetics who do not need insulin routinely self-check their glucose one or more times a day, the practice has been questioned.

The recent one-year JAMA study was conducted at more than a dozen primary care medical practices in North Carolina and included 450 patients with type 2 diabetes, with an average age of 61. Patients were included in one of three groups: no glucose monitoring, once-daily glucose monitoring, and monitoring that included regular supportive messages about controlling type 2 diabetes. For all three groups, the researchers measured the patients' quality of life and levels of hemoglobin A1c, which evaluates the average amount of glucose in the blood over the last 2 to 3 months. At the end of the study, the researchers found no differences in quality of life or glucose control between patients who checked their glucose levels and those who didn't.

Katrina Donahue, MD, PhD, the senior author of the paper and the director of research at the University of North Carolina Division of Family Medicine, says the decision to test or not for people with type 2 diabetes has been left up to providers and patients. However, she has found in her own work 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." Adds Dr. Donahue, "patients and providers should consider each unique situation as they determine whether home blood glucose monitoring is appropriate…” "[F]or the majority," says Dr. Donahue, "the costs may outweigh the benefits. If patient and provider determine that home monitoring is not necessary, it could save the patient hundreds of finger sticks and hundreds of dollars every year."

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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used. To access online sources, copy and paste the URL into your browser.

Glucose Self-monitoring in Non-Insulin-Treated Patients with Type 2 Diabetes in Primary Care Settings. JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(7):920-929. Available online at http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2630691. Accessed on June 27, 2017.

(June 10, 2017) Home Monitoring of Blood Sugar Did Not Improve Glycemic Control After One Year. Eurekalert. Available online at https://eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-06/tjnj-hmo060917.php. Accessed June 27, 2017.

Email communication with study senior author Katrina Donahue, MD on June 28, 2017.