People that live with diabetes must monitor their blood sugar levels closely. This means that they are required to prick their fingers several times a day. On average, most people diagnosed with diabetes check their blood glucose levels four times a day: morning, afternoon, evening, and nighttime prior to bed. Four times is an average day.
Complicated days in which your blood sugar is too low or too high may require you to check more than four times. That is a lot of finger pricks! Doing your due diligence may lead to bruised and painful fingertips.
Although there are not many ways around finger pricks, there are some techniques you can implement in order to heal bruised fingertips faster and take preventative measures to reduce bruising altogether! The following strategies make your fingertips less likely to bruise while giving accurate blood sugar measurements.
Checking your blood sugar is a process. According to the American Diabetes Association, general guidelines include washing hands with soap and warm water, then drying; using a fresh lancet; preparing the blood glucose meter and test strip; obtaining a blood sample from your fingertip; applying blood sample onto the testing strip; disposing of the lancet in a sharps container.
As you can see, the process is relatively simple. However, if done over and over, leads to bruised and painful fingertips. Healing bruised fingertips from checking blood sugar levels is accomplished by following simple strategies. All these strategies can be done every day with every fingerstick.
Soap and water may reduce pain
Do you ever use hand sanitizer or alcohol pads to clean your hands before you test your blood sugar? Next time try to use plain soap and warm water prior to your fingerstick. Interestingly, overuse of alcohol pads or hand sanitizer can toughen your skin over time, making it more difficult to obtain a drop of blood.
Puncturing through tough skin causes more pain. The repeated use of alcohol calluses your fingertips, which increases the force needed to puncture the skin; this increased force causes pain. The deeper the poke, the more it hurts. The shallower the poke, the less it will hurt. Washing with soap and water also decreases your risk for infection because the dirt will be removed from your skin and not be pushed under the skin with the lancet.
Fingertip locations matter
Which fingertip do you choose when measuring blood glucose levels?
Do you have one fingertip you use more often than the others?
Where on the fingertip do you puncture with the lancet?
All these things matter for healing bruised fingertips due to checking blood sugar levels. Nurses will often teach patients to choose a less painful site when checking blood glucose levels. It is advised to puncture the sides of the finger and not the tip or near the nail bed.
The sides of your fingertip actually have fewer nerves, so it is less painful. The sides of your fingertip also have more blood vessels closer to the surface, so you don’t have to push hard with the lancet. Thus, decreasing pain and bruising. Finger pads are not advised for puncturing because they are the thickest part of your finger, so you will have to prick deeply to get the amount of blood required.
Rotate fingertip sites
Each time you puncture a fingertip to check a blood sugar, you should skip that same fingertip the next time. Rotating your lancing sites allows your fingertips to heal, reducing the occurrence of bruising and pain. Once your fingertip is bruised, you should never take a blood sample from on top of the bruise. Not only could this lead to an inaccurate reading, but it also causes unnecessary pain and even more bruising.
Rotate the site all around the sides of each fingertip. If you want, you can make up a system where you assign a finger to each meal or a different day of the week. You can use one side of one fingertip for morning and afternoon sticks, and switch to the other side for dinner and evening checks. If you have a sore or bruised finger, skip it and use another finger until the spot heals.
Lancets are the devices used to prick the skin in order to obtain a blood glucose sample. A lancet is a small medical device used to puncture in the skin. The sharper the lancet, the more efficient the needlestick, thus reducing the risk of bruising or pain. Contrary to popular thought, lancets are disposable. Remember to change lancets often.
Many people like to reuse lancets for cost-effectiveness, but this can make them duller over time. Not to mention, this is an infection risk. Dull lancets cause bruising and pain. Fresh lancets provide sharp needles to puncture a small hole in the skin with minimum bruising and pain. So next time you are thinking about reusing a lancet, toss it!
After each fingerstick, you can apply pressure to the lancet site with a cotton ball or tissue for 30 seconds to 1 minute. This will reduce bleeding and bruises. Allowing time for the blood to clot over the puncture site also protects it from infection because the puncture hole will be sealed, not allowing dirt or other germs to enter.
The last consideration when dealing with bruised fingertips is to consider your overall nutrition. Sometimes, people who are anemic or have other nutritional deficiencies are more prone to bruising. Ask your health care provider if you need to take a daily supplement to help with your nutritional status or deficiencies. This may help decrease bruising in general.
Overall, if you implement these strategies, you will heal bruised fingertips from lancet site overuse. Being diabetic means that you will have to check your blood sugar, but it does not mean that you must be in pain everyday or dread checking your blood glucose levels. Perform the strategies listed and see if it helps with your overall comfort. It may bring much-needed relief while managing your diabetes.