What Glucose Levels Say About Your Health When You Have Diabetes

For people living with diabetes, understanding and monitoring your glucose levels is crucial to being able to comfortably manage your health. Depending on your diagnosis (whether it’s Type 1 or Type 2), having high or low glucose levels can transform how your mind and body moves through your day. Whether it’s temporary effects like feeling more tired, cranky or confused or longer-term effects that could lead to health complications down the line. 

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“Glucose monitoring is the primary tool you have to find out if your glucose levels are within your target range. This tells you your glucose level at any one time,” according to the American Diabetes Association. “It’s important for glucose levels to stay in a healthy range. If glucose levels get too low, we can lose the ability to think and function normally. If they get too high and stay high, it can cause damage or complications to the body over the course of many years.”

Creating a plan for monitoring your glucose levels is paramount when you are living with diabetes — and thankfully technology like continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices can make this much easier. Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre 2 system is the only integrated CGM system available that continuously measures glucose data every minute with customizable, optional real-time alarms to alert users when their glucose is high or low without scanning or painful fingersticks. This technology is available for children (ages 4 and older) and adults with diabetes, and monitors glucose levels for up to 14 days, providing trends, insights and actionable data. With access to this type of information on your glucose levels, you can make smarter choices for your health. 

What does it mean when your blood sugar is high or low? 

“Low glucose would be someone feeling shaky, sweaty, a low energy and even things like blurry vision [or] being disoriented,” Megan O’Neill, PA-C, CDCES and Medical Science Liaison with Abbott’s diabetes care division tells SheKnows. “If the low is severe, they can actually go unconscious. With high glucose levels, some people will also feel more irritable, get headaches or become more thirsty and urinating more if it’s something that’s been going on for a while, so there’s a variety of different things that people can experience.”

In your day-to-day life, these symptoms can definitely interfere with your moods and your ability to accomplish what you need or want to get done in a day.

“Fluctuating glucose levels can interfere with their work, their school, their concentration, their function,” she adds. “If they’re having symptoms or monitoring and finding that they’re at an extreme, it can limit or interfere with their day-to-day plans. They can find themselves getting really cranky, potentially impacting interpersonal relationships and communication. Driving can be dangerous. Exercise can be challenging to navigate.”

People living with diabetes can experience both short- and long-term effects from having high or low glucose levels — which makes glucose monitoring crucial so you can monitor and log what’s going on in your body over time. 

“If someone is experiencing high glucose levels for a long time, that is what is often connected to complications,” O’Neill said. “But also, if people are going through rapid fluctuations up and down, there’s evidence to indicate that also causes damage to organ systems.”

Remember: The numbers are just data, not a judgement

O’Neill says that she really hopes to see less stigma about glucose levels for people living with diabetes — and instead to see people being able to embrace it as a tool and useful information to help them understand their bodies — rather than a value judgement. “I think one of the things we try to reinforce to take away the judgment and stigma related to diabetes is that your glucose level is just information,” she said. “It’s just a result and a number that is dynamic. I think viewing your levels as good and bad is a misconception, which ends up being an emotional burden.” 

Instead, it helps to think of being armed with all the information you and your healthcare team might need as something empowering in itself.

“Engaging with the information, knowing your glucose levels, understanding what you do and how that affects you is empowering,” O’Neill said. “Then you have that information to make choices and view it more as information that can support and help you make better decisions rather than a burden or a judgment or something that’s discouraging.”

This article was created by SheKnows for Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre 2 system.

About Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre 2 system:

The FreeStyle Libre 2 system includes a self-applied sensor (the size of two-stacked quarters) that is the easiest glucose sensor to apply1 and worn on the back of the upper arm, eliminating the need for painful fingersticks to test glucose levels.‡ Easily check your glucose levels with a painless2 one-second scan instead of a fingerstick.

WARNINGS/LIMITATIONS*: The System must not be used with automated insulin dosing (AID) systems, including closed loop and insulin suspend systems. Remove the sensor before MRI, CT scan, X-ray, or diathermy treatment. Do not take high doses of Vitamin C (more than 500mg per day), as this may falsely raise your Sensor readings. Failure to use the System according to the instructions for use may result in missing a severe low blood glucose or high blood glucose event and/or making a treatment decision that may result in injury. If glucose alarms and readings from the System do not match symptoms or expectations, use a fingerstick blood glucose value to make diabetes treatment decisions. Seek medical attention when appropriate and contact Abbott Toll Free (855-632-8658) or visit* www.freestylelibre.us for detailed indications for use and safety information.

*For full indications for use and safety information, see more here.

Notifications will only be received when alarms are turned on and the sensor is within 20 feet of the reading device

Fingersticks are required if your glucose alarms and readings do not match symptoms or when you see Check Blood Glucose symbol in the first twelve hours.

1Data on file. Freestyle Libre 2 system user manual.

2Haak T, et al. Flash glucose-sensing technology as a replacement for blood glucose monitoring for the management of insulin-treated type 2 diabetes: a multicentre, open-label randomised controlled trial. Diabetes Ther. 2017;8(1):55-73.

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