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Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus, is a common and chronic health condition that affects how the body uses glucose. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it affects over
A further 88 million people have prediabetes, which typically occurs before diabetes. In prediabetes, blood sugar levels are elevated, but not to the levels of diabetes.
Many people are unaware they have prediabetes or diabetes until they experience health problems. Understanding the warning signs and regularly testing are ways of safeguarding your health from the severe health complications of diabetes.
It’s worth knowing that you can now buy at-home diabetes testing kits to monitor your blood glucose with A1C testing. Depending on your results, you can then consult a doctor. Keep in mind that these tests cannot determine or diagnose if you have diabetes. It only reads your blood sugar levels. Be sure to consult with your healthcare professional about your results, especially if you don’t understand them.
If you’re looking for an easy way to test your blood sugar at home, here are our top picks for products.
We assessed reviews and compared features of at-home diabetes testing options. We used the following criteria to make our list:
- Laboratory standards: Where possible, we selected companies that use
Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)certified labs.
- Cost: We selected at-home tests that span a range of budgets.
- Privacy: We looked at data protection and privacy measures such as discreet packaging.
- Speed of results: We selected companies offering speedy test results that inform customers how to access their data.
- Medical support: We’ll indicate if a company offers support when results are out of range, such as phone or telehealth consultation.
- $ = under $50
- $$ = $50–$70
- $$$ = over $70
|At-home test||Price||Collection method||Results||Tests for||Insurance?||Follow-up guidance?|
|LetsGetChecked||$$$||finger prick||in 2–5 days||hemoglobin A1C||HSA/FSA only||free nurse assistance to discuss positive results|
|Everlywell||$||finger prick||within 5 days||hemoglobin A1C||none||a physician may contact you to explain your results if they’re out of range|
|LabCorp||$||finger prick||varies||hemoglobin A1C||none||a physician may contact you to explain results if they’re out of range|
|DTI Laboratories||$$||finger prick||within 24 hours||hemoglobin A1C||none||none|
|myLab Box||$$$||finger prick||in 1–5 days||hemoglobin A1C||none||option of a free virtual consultation with a physician if test results are out of range|
If you’re concerned that you’re at risk for diabetes, here are some of the most common causes and symptoms.
Type 1 diabetes
Doctors don’t currently know the primary cause of type 1 diabetes. In some cases, genetics may play a role. Symptoms can include:
- extreme hunger
- increased thirst
- unintentional weight loss
- frequent urination
- blurry vision
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes typically stems from a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors. Being overweight or having obesity can heighten your risk. Additionally, family members may share genes that make them more likely to get type 2 diabetes and be overweight.
Symptoms may include:
- increased hunger
- increased thirst
- increased urination
- blurry vision
- sores that are slow to heal
There are also gender-specific symptoms for type 1 and type 2 diabetes. For people who were assigned male at birth, symptoms may include:
- a decreased sex drive
- erectile dysfunction
- poor muscle strength
People who were assigned female at birth may experience:
- urinary tract infections
- yeast infections
Home diabetes tests usually provide everything you need to test A1C, also called HbA1c. According to the American Diabetes Association, this metric shows your average blood glucose levels over the previous 2–3 months, rather than standard glucose testing that only provides a snapshot of that moment.
Because A1C tests provide an overall picture of your blood sugar levels, they’re a good indicator of how your body manages glucose.
At-home diabetes tests allow you to take a blood sample at home and mail it to a laboratory for analysis. Then, after a few days, you’ll receive your results through a phone app, email, or on a secure web platform.
If there are any atypical results, follow up with your primary care physician to discuss the next steps.
Anyone who wants to understand their risk of diabetes should take an at-home diabetes test. Because these kits only require blood from a finger prick, they’re safe for most people to use. You can then use the results to see if you need medical guidance.
That said, people living with diabetes should seek their doctor’s advice if they are considering using these tests to replace their routine monitoring or specially ordered tests.
Although the process differs by company, the typical steps are:
- Order and pay for your test online.
- Receive your test kit in the mail in a few days.
- Review the instructions.
- Register your unique ID number on the company website.
- Collect a finger-prick blood sample on the test strip or other collection device.
- Return your sample in the prepaid envelope that’s marked with your ID number.
- Wait up to 1 week for your results.
- Results appear on an online portal or via email.
- Follow up with your primary care physician if the results are out of range.
Your results indicate your levels of glycated hemoglobin or HbA1c. When blood glucose binds with the hemoglobin in red blood cells, it forms A1C and is detectable in the blood for 2 to 3 months.
A1C levels increase in line with blood glucose, meaning high blood glucose equals high A1C.
According to the American Diabetes Association:
- HbA1c levels under 5.7% are “normal”
- 5.7–6.4% means prediabetes
- 6.5% or higher indicates diabetes
If you notice anything abnormal in your results, or if you’re not sure how to read them, consult your healthcare professional before taking any next steps. Do not start or stop taking any medications without their advice.
What is the HbA1c level?
The HbA1c level indicates your average blood sugar levels over the past 2–3 months.
The HbA1c or A1C test measures the amount of blood sugar or glucose that’s bound to your red blood cells. If your body can’t use glucose as it should, more of it sticks to the blood cells and builds up.
Doctors use the test results to diagnose and monitor prediabetes and diabetes. The results are reported as a percentage, and normal levels are less than 5.7t.
What kind of samples are required for an at-home diabetes test?
Most at-home diabetes tests require a finger-prick blood sample. It involves using a tiny scalpel called a lancet to prick the side of your finger. You’ll then collect the drop of blood on the test strip or sample collection board.
If you opt for a diabetes panel, you may also need to provide a urine sample.
What does an at-home diabetes test kit include?
Most of the tests we’ve reviewed come with instructions, a lancet to prick your finger, and a sample collection device. In addition, there’s typically a prepaid shipping label or envelope and an ID number used for registration on the company website and for marking your specimen.
Does Medicare cover at-home diabetes tests?
No, Medicare and insurance companies usually don’t cover at-home diabetes tests. However, there may be exceptions. Always contact your insurance company to double-check.
At-home diabetes tests are an affordable and efficient way of screening for diabetes. Using these tests can help you monitor how your body uses glucose and assess your risk of diabetes, especially if it’s common in your family.
Regular testing can help you catch problems before they become an issue. You can then follow up with your primary care doctor to discuss the best course of action.
Zia Sherrell is a health copywriter and digital health journalist with over a decade of experience covering diverse topics from public health to medical cannabis, nutrition, and biomedical science. Her mission is to empower and educate people by bringing health matters to life with engaging, evidence-based writing.