Random glucose testing (also called “casual testing”) is a powerful tool for diabetics to assess how well their disease is being managed. A random glucose test is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a random blood test to check glucose levels.
Health professionals recommend that you use the post-meal glucose level as a standard of measurement for random glucose testing, with acceptable values being around 70-125 mg/dL (3.9-6.9 mmol/L). But how does random testing give you insight in your disease management?
In normal healthy adults, glucose levels are moderated within the bloodstream by actions of insulin produced by the pancreas and cell use of sugars. If a healthy non-diabetic adult received random glucose tests throughout the day, their glucose levels would remain relatively stable over time—even if they varied their diet, experienced stress or ate at different times of the day.
In diabetics and those developing diabetes, glucose levels can vary widely throughout the day—especially if the disease is not well managed or is not managed at all. This is when symptoms can begin. Symptoms include weight loss, dehydration, increased urination, slow healing, and blurry vision. A random blood glucose test on untreated diabetes will give widely varying glucose levels, or consistently very high glucose levels.
Taking Random Blood Glucose Tests
Random blood glucose tests can be performed by anyone. When you visit your doctor’s office and they perform a glucose test without having you fast beforehand, that is a random blood glucose test. When you perform a glucose test outside of your normal testing schedule, you are performing a random blood glucose test. Random glucose testing is an important piece of the puzzle that makes up your diabetes management strategy. If you test at random and your glucose levels are acceptable, then your diabetes management strategy is working. Alternatively, if you notice wide changes in your levels, then it may be time to rethink and re-orient how you’re managing your diabetes.
There are several other kinds of tests that diabetics can use in addition to random blood glucose tests. There’s the fasting blood glucose test that is usually performed upon waking prior to any meals in the day. There’s also the post-meal blood glucose test, which measures glucose levels after a meal (usually two hours after you eat). Different testing times will yield different results, which are affected by the food you’ve eaten, stress, medicines you’re taking, and any caffeine you’ve consumed. Because of all these factors, it’s important to test everyday to get a sense of your personal levels and how they vary in response to your environment.
Exercise can also play a role in your random glucose test results. Generally, exercise will lower glucose levels and may require you to adjust your insulin regimen, if you’re taking shots everyday. Even if you have to adjust, remember that exercise is the number one way to help control diabetes. Over 50 percent of diabetics gain benefits from even moderate exercise. Exercise increases your body’s ability to use insulin and burns extra glucose in your bloodstream. In the long term, exercise will lead to more stable random glucose test results.
Listening to Your Body
When you’re diabetic, paying close attention to your symptoms is very important. Many diabetics dread the horrible feelings of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia that can occur when diabetes is not properly managed or something goes wrong. Remember, however, that these symptoms are a powerful ally in that they signal trouble before it gets out of control. When you experience a symptom that may be related to poor glucose levels, it’s time to perform a random glucose test.
Listen to your body. Note which foods balance your insulin and glucose levels after a meal. Being alert for initial symptoms within your body will cue you to test your glucose levels and quickly overcome any rapid changes in your glucose levels. Identifying symptoms can also help new diabetics as they learn how to stabilize their disease. And if you manage your diabetes with oral medication, then rapid changes in symptoms or worsening symptoms can cue you to the fact that your diabetes may be getting worse or needs more direct management.
Finally, it’s important to remember that your blood glucose levels do not tie to your value as a person; rather, blood glucose levels are a measure of your disease activity. Stressing over your glucose readings is counter-productive and will only hurt your progress towards successfully managing your diabetes. Diabetes is a very serious condition that you can control with excellent glucose monitoring practice. If you find that your glucose levels just aren’t getting under control, it’s time to speak with your doctor about alternatives in your management program