Diabetes can be tough, of course. And who doesn't need a little help navigating it all now and again? That's exactly why we offer Ask D'Mine, our weekly advice column, hosted by veteran type 1, diabetes author and educator Wil Dubois.

This week, Wil's confronted with a case of "bad introductions" from a fellow PWD (person with diabetes) who didn't get off on the right, err... fingertip... when it comes to blood sugar checks. Here's what he has to say about all the poking and prodding with strips and lancets that's so essential to D-care.

{Got your own questions? Email us at AskDMine@diabetesmine.com}


Allison, type 2 from Texas, writes: I was diagnosed with type 2 last month, so I'm still freaking out. I have no insurance. The clinic that I go to gave me almost an hour of nutritional counseling...almost 8 weeks later. When I told the dietitian I was really struggling with learning how to monitor my blood glucose, he grabbed one of my index fingers, put it in a vice grip, poked it, squeezed it even more, and lo and behold there was blood. I also nearly passed out. I repeated the procedure at home later, got the blood, but somehow the meter didn't do anything when I put it to the test strip. This time, not only did it feel like I was passing out (I didn't), but I feel like an incompetent big baby. My next A1C check is in August and my next dietary appointment is in three months. I can't afford to meet with a diabetes educator and I feel completely isolated. I don't want this to kill me, but I really need some support to get through this most basic of tasks. Are there any monitor systems on the market now with a newly diagnosed person in mind?

Wil@Ask D'Mine answers: First and foremost, you aren't an incompetent big baby. The stupid dietitian at your clinic is the incompetent big baby. Maybe next week on his way home from work someone will mug him, drag him into a dark alley, put his index finger in a vice grip, and squeeze the blood out of him...

See? It's never too early in the morning for a happy thought!

OK, we have a lot of ground to cover here. I know that you feel all alone right now, but in fact, you've just joined one of the largest groups of people on the planet, with more than 24 million members in the USA chapter alone! If we were organized, we would be the fourth largest group in the country after AAA, Sam's Club, and AARP.

Actually, I'm not sure what that says about our society...

Anyway, moving on, you are sooooooo not alone. I'm glad you found us here at D'Mine, but you still have more to discover. Launch a browser and connect with the Diabetes Online Community, known as the DOC to its friends. We have blogs, communities, news sites, message boards, Twitter feeds, Facebook stuff, and more. This is where you can find, for free, the support you need to get through this. You'll be amazed to hear so many voices speaking the unspoken thoughts that are swirling through your head right now — and you'll never feel alone again.

Taming the Tiger

Next, as you don't have access to good healthcare yet, I want you to go over to Diabetes Without Borders to get a free mini-diabetes education course. Once you get there, just click on either English or Spanish and you'll get a low-res PDF file of this awesome little book that tells you just the basics of how to get through this difficult time (OK, it's my book, also available on Amazon in both dead-tree format and on Kindle, ACX, and even iTunes as an audio book).

The author is talented, smart, witty, and — I'm told — very charming (my wife may disagree, but opinions vary, just like diabetes).

Now, about that glucose meter. Frankly, I'm not aware of a model that's optimized for the newly diagnosed. And even if there were one, it probably wouldn't be the best for you. The best meter for you, and what you need, is a meter that you can afford, so I'd look to ReliOn or AgaMatrix.

But don't get too hung up on the meter. After all, a meter is just a box that has batteries and a bunch of circuit boards, 'n stuff. Your problem is further upstream, in getting the blood sample that the box needs. Well, actually it's the strip that needs the blood, more than the meter. The meter just reports the test results that happen inside the strip — the meter is just an interpreter. Using a Star Wars analogy, the meter is C3P0, the strip is R2D2, and the blood is... Well, crap. That analogy just broke down on me, didn't it?

Time to come back down to Earth...

In reality, your problem is either in the lancing device (the thing you poke your finger with) or your lancing technique.

There are a lot of different lancing devices out there. A few are outstanding and a few are total crap, but in general, they are all very much the same, and I find that most of the trouble people have with lancing devices can be classified under the category "User Error." Actually, that's not entirely fair. It's really an instruction and training issue. And, boy, if anyone ever suffered from lack of good instruction on using a lancing device, it was you.

So here's my mini course in how to use a lancing device (also see the related graphic novel here):

A lancing device is a spring-loaded mechanism that holds a little needle called a lancet. Most of the devices have a depth gauge of some sort. Frequently they also have two caps: One clear and one solid. THOW AWAY the clear cap. It's for "alternate site testing" and it will always hurt your fingertips, no matter what else you do. Put a lancet in the device, be sure to put the cap back on (seriously, I've met several people who didn't realize they were supposed to do this), do NOT squeeze your finger — in a vice grip or otherwise — but simply rest the device firmly on the fingertip and let 'er rip.

Um... my bad. Poor choice of words. I should have said, "... and gently squeeze the trigger."

Lancing you finger should not hurt. If it does, set the depth setting for a lower number. On the other hand, if you need to squeeze your

finger more than the mildest amount to get blood out, then you need a larger number on the depth gauge.

blood sugar testAs for your failure to get the meter to work once you tortured yourself getting a blood sample, I noticed you said that you "put" the blood on the strip. That was likely the trouble. Strips like to "drink" blood. Bring the strip to the sample, rather than taking the sample to the strip. Just "park" the tip of the strip at the base of the blood drop, at about a 45-degree angle, and the strip will wick the blood in. Sluuuuuuurp!

Oh, yes. And one other thing. Most meters do a little self-test when you stick a strip in them, and meters aren't any good at multitasking. If you try to put the strip to the blood during the self-test, you'll get an error message. You can avoid this by always putting the strip in the meter BEFORE you lance your finger. That way, by the time you have blood, the meter will be done with its internal checks and will be eagerly awaiting the blood sample.

And that's all there is to it. So welcome to the family, Allison. I'm so sorry that your introduction to all of this was so badly botched. But you will rise above the challenge. You will not only survive, you will thrive. Someday you'll look back on all this and laugh.

Then you'll drop by a flower shop and send some black roses to a certain finger-squeezing physician.


This is not a medical advice column. We are PWDs freely and openly sharing the wisdom of our collected experiences — our been-there-done-that knowledge from the trenches. But we are not MDs, RNs, NPs, PAs, CDEs, or partridges in pear trees. Bottom line: we are only a small part of your total prescription. You still need the professional advice, treatment, and care of a licensed medical professional.

Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.


This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.