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Blood Glucose (Sugar) Test

This test measures the glucose levels, a type of sugar, in your blood.

Collection method

Typically blood (venipuncture)

Test preparation



Ages 18+ only; Could vary by provider

Turnaround time

Typically 48-72 hours

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Glucose Testing

A blood glucose test is also known as a blood sugar test—it is a measurement of the number of glucose molecules in your bloodstream at any given moment.

What is glucose?

Glucose is the form of sugar that the cells in your body use for energy, and its presence in your blood is regulated by a hormone made by the pancreas, called insulin. When there is a lot of glucose circulating in your blood, your body releases more insulin hormone to help bring glucose molecules from the bloodstream into your cells, according to the Mayo Clinic. These molecules can then be used as fuel (for cells like muscle cells), or they may be stored in fat cells.

When you have diabetes, your body’s cells are not as sensitive to the effects of insulin, or your body may not be producing insulin at the proper rate, so there is a greater amount of glucose that remains in your bloodstream, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The Mayo Clinic indicates that continuously high blood glucose levels can damage your body over time, causing things like

  • Kidney problems
  • Vision problems
  • Nerve problems
  • Heart problems
  • And more

For this reason, medical professionals use a blood glucose test to check for high levels of sugar in the bloodstream and monitor the success of treatment in existing diabetics.

Other medical conditions can also cause a high blood glucose level such as problems with your adrenal glands, according to the National Library of Medicine.

What is a glucose test?

A blood glucose test is used to reveal blood glucose levels, through a blood sample. There are a few different types of blood glucose tests, including:

  • Random glucose tests
  • Fasting glucose tests
  • Glucose tolerance tests
  • Hemoglobin A1C glucose tests

What’s measured by a glucose test?

Glucose testing measures the amount of glucose that is in your bloodstream, instead of being used by cells for energy. This measurement can either diagnose your diabetic condition or monitor the success of your diabetic treatment.

Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)

A glucose test can reveal if your blood sugar is too high, known as hyperglycemia. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) defines hyperglycemia as a blood glucose level of 180 mg/dL or higher. However, the exact threshold for hyperglycemia may vary depending on age, medical history, and other factors.

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)

A glucose test can also reveal a condition called hypoglycemia, in which there is a low level of glucose in the bloodstream. The ADA defines hypoglycemia as a blood glucose level of less than 70 mg/dL, with symptoms. However, this may also vary depending on age, medical history, and other factors.

What are the different types of glucose tests and which one should I get?

There are a few different types of glucose tests, each with its own purpose and recommended usage. According to the ADA, the common types of glucose tests are:

  • Fasting glucose test: A test that measures your blood glucose level after a fast of at least 8 hours. It's often used to diagnose diabetes or prediabetes.
  • Oral glucose tolerance test: A test that measures your blood glucose level before and after you drink a glucose-containing beverage. It's often used to diagnose gestational diabetes or to confirm a diagnosis of diabetes or prediabetes.
  • Random glucose test: This test measures your blood glucose level at any time of the day, regardless of when you last ate. It's often used to monitor blood glucose levels in people with diabetes.
  • Hemoglobin A1C test: This test measures your average blood glucose level over the past 2-3 months. It's often used to monitor blood glucose levels in people with diabetes, and assess how well their treatment is going.

The type of glucose test you should get depends on your individual circumstances, such as your age, medical history, and symptoms. Your healthcare provider can help you determine which test is right for you.

Who should get a glucose test?

A blood glucose test is a useful tool for anyone who is having symptoms of high or low blood sugar, or people who have risk factors for developing diabetes. According to the NLM, symptoms of high blood sugar can include:

  • Excessive thirst or hunger
  • Having wounds that don’t heal well
  • Feeling inexplicably tired
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness or tingling in the legs, hands, or feet

According to the NLM, symptoms of low blood sugar can include:

  • Extreme hunger
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating or shaking

Your healthcare provider may also use a blood glucose test as a screening tool for diabetes. This can be especially helpful if you have the following risk factors for type 2 diabetes, as noted by the CDC:

  • Excessive body weight
  • Age greater than 45
  • A family history of diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Heart disease
  • A history of gestational diabetes

Additionally, the CDC states that a blood glucose test can help you monitor your blood sugar if you already have a diagnosis of prediabetes or diabetes. Many people who have diabetes are well-accustomed to checking their blood glucose several times a day to see how well their body is processing glucose and make interventions as needed.

How often should I get a glucose test?

The recommended frequency of glucose testing depends on a variety of factors, including your age, medical history, and current glucose levels. Here are some general guidelines outlined by the American Diabetes Association and CDC:

  • For people without diabetes: The ADA recommends that adults aged 45 years and older be screened for prediabetes or diabetes every three years, or more frequently if they have risk factors or symptoms of diabetes.
  • For people with diabetes: The ADA recommends that people with diabetes have their blood glucose levels checked at least twice a year, or more frequently if needed to maintain good glucose control. The specific frequency of testing may vary depending on the individual's treatment plan and glucose levels. Many people will need to check their blood glucose levels at home multiple times per day in order to manage their diabetes.
  • For pregnant women: The ADA recommends that all pregnant women be screened for gestational diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Women who have risk factors for gestational diabetes may be screened earlier in pregnancy.

It's important to note that these are general guidelines, and the frequency of glucose testing may need to be adjusted based on individual factors. Your healthcare provider can help you determine how often you should have your glucose levels checked.

How to get a glucose test

There are many ways to get a blood glucose test. At-home blood glucose monitors are available over the counter without a prescription; however, many insurance companies will also pay for these machines (and their associated lancets and testing strips) if you have an order from a healthcare provider.

A healthcare provider can also perform a blood glucose test in a clinic setting, using either a fingerstick or a blood draw. A finger stick method can give you immediate results, whereas the results of a blood draw may take longer because they are processed by a laboratory. Another way in which you can monitor your own blood sugar is through a medical device known as a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). These machines can be a valuable substitute for finger pricks if you have a health condition that requires you to frequently check your blood sugar.

What to expect during a glucose test

What you can expect during a blood glucose test may vary depending on the context according to the NLM. If you are at a health clinic and your healthcare provider recommends a blood glucose test, you may have a blood draw or finger prick on the spot. Or, if your healthcare provider would like for you to be fasting before your blood glucose test, you may be requested to return at a later time to have this simple blood test.

If you are pregnant or have another specific medical need, your healthcare provider may order a specific type of blood glucose test known as an oral glucose tolerance test. According to the NLM, these tests require you to consume a large amount of sugar and then have your blood drawn within a certain time frame to see how well your body processes sugar.

Before the glucose test

Your healthcare provider or the laboratory where your test is scheduled can give you information on whether you need to fast food before your test.

During the glucose test

During the test, a healthcare professional will use either a lancet to do a fingerstick blood sample or a venipuncture procedure to collect a blood sample from your hand or arm. Either way, the test is fairly quick and usually associated with very minimal, if any, pain, reports the NLM.

After the glucose test

You may get your results right away, but in some cases, you may have to wait a few hours or days for your results, reports the NLM.

How long does a glucose test take?

A fingerstick glucose test takes only a couple of minutes, and results are available within seconds. For a venipuncture blood sample, the procedure takes around 5 to 10 minutes, and results may take hours to days, notes the NLM.

Understanding the results of a glucose test

Understanding your results depends on which type of glucose test you received. A sugar level can have different meanings depending on whether or not you were fasting when you had the test performed.

What is the normal range for glucose levels?

For a fasting blood sugar test, the following ranges are considered standard according to the CDC:

  • Normal: 99 mg/dL or below
  • Prediabetes: 100 mg/dL to 125 mg/dL
  • Diabetes: 126 mg/dL or above

A glucose test can be used to diagnose prediabetes or diabetes or monitor existing diabetes. If you are not fasting and your blood sugar is greater than 200mg/dL, this is also considered to be a result consistent with diabetes according to the CDC.

What to do if a glucose test is elevated

If you have an elevated blood glucose test, it could mean that you have either prediabetes or diabetes, the CDC reports. If you are pregnant, it may mean that you have gestational diabetes.

Other factors can contribute to high blood sugar at a specific moment in time, including certain medications, so talk with your healthcare provider about an abnormal blood glucose test to decide what steps you need to take.

Your healthcare provider may suggest further testing, lifestyle changes, medications, or any of these measures in combination, to help you lower your blood glucose and avoid the consequences of consistently high blood sugar levels.

Finding a glucose test

A glucose test can be ordered by a medical provider or in some cases you can request one on your own. You can easily find the nearest glucose testing facility by searching Solv.

Can I get a glucose test at home?

At-home glucose monitors are available for purchase online and at most drugstores. They may also be ordered by your healthcare provider, which can make them eligible for insurance coverage.

Cost of a glucose test

The cost of glucose testing in the US can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the type of test, where the test is performed, and whether or not the person has health insurance.

According to a report from the American Diabetes Association, the average cost of a diabetes test strip is around $0.60 to $0.70 per strip, which can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year for diabetics who test frequently. However, many health insurance plans cover the cost of diabetes testing supplies, and some pharmacies and clinics offer low-cost or discounted options for those who are uninsured or underinsured.

More about diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by increased levels of glucose (sugar) in the bloodstream, according to the ADA. This can occur when the body either does not produce enough insulin (a hormone that regulates glucose levels) or is unable to use insulin effectively. There are three types of diabetes:

  • Type I (formerly known as juvenile diabetes)
  • Type II (usually the result of risk factors)
  • Gestational diabetes

Symptoms of diabetes

The symptoms of diabetes can vary depending on the type of diabetes and how long the condition has been present. However, some common symptoms of diabetes according to the ADA include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme hunger
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing wounds or infections
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Dry skin
  • Irritability

It's important to note that some people with diabetes may not experience any symptoms, especially in the early stages of the disease. That's why the Mayo Clinic notes that it is important for individuals with risk factors for diabetes, such as being overweight or having a family history of the disease, to get regular screenings to detect diabetes early.

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Glucose testing FAQs

Find answers to the most commonly asked questions about lab tests.

A glucose test checks for the amount of blood glucose that is in your bloodstream at the time of the assessment. This is usually measured in milligrams per deciliter. This test can fluctuate based on whether or not you have eaten food before the test, according to the CDC.
A high glucose test could mean that you have diabetes, according to the CDC. However, blood sugar could be high outside of diabetes, so a follow-up is usually needed if you have an elevated test.
According to the CDC, if you have Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, or gestational diabetes, you may have elevated blood glucose or an elevated A1C. However, screening tests for diabetes cannot distinguish between different types of diabetes. Your healthcare provider can help you determine your diabetes type based on history, physical exam, and other tests.
The CDC recommends getting a glucose test every three years after the age of 45. Your medical provider may recommend more frequent testing if you have risk factors for diabetes, such as:
  • Excessive body weight
  • A family history of diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Heart disease
  • History of gestational diabetes
Yes, according to the CDC your blood glucose level is always fluctuating. Things that change your blood sugar are:
  • Food
  • Drink
  • Some medications
  • Insulin
  • Exercise
  • Overall health condition
According to the CDC, you can lower your elevated glucose test with lifestyle habits such as:
  • Dietary changes
  • Exercise
  • Medications like Metformin and Insulin
Sometimes fasting is needed for a glucose test. However, some tests do not require a fast. Your healthcare provider or the lab you schedule your test at can give you more information when you schedule your test.
Most of the time, drinking water is fine before a glucose test, according to the ADA. There are rare exceptions (like for an oral glucose tolerance test during pregnancy) where water fasting may be recommended. It's important to follow the specific instructions provided by your healthcare provider for the glucose test you are taking.
The Mayo Clinic recommends the following if you have an elevated glucose test result:
  • Eat a well-balanced diet, limiting added sugars and refined carbohydrates
  • Get regular exercise (around 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise)
  • Maintain a healthy weight Manage stress
  • Take prescribed medications as directed
It is important to discuss your glucose test results and the steps you should take to lower elevated results with your healthcare provider.
Yes, however, the risks are very small, according to the ADA. A lancet or needle used during a diabetes test can cause slight bruising or bleeding. Rarely, there is a chance of infection—however, this is not common. Overall, the risks of getting a diabetes test are very low.

This publication is not intended to solicit the purchase of laboratory testing from any individual consumer.

Dr. Rob Rohatsch, MD

Updated on Jan 25, 2023

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Rob Rohatsch, MD

Dr. Rob Rohatsch currently serves as Chief Medical Officer for Solv Health. Dr. Rohatsch brings his extensive background in multi-site ambulatory medicine operations, on-demand healthcare, and consumerism to Solv, where he helps drive strategic initiatives in a cross functional executive role. He brings comprehensive healthcare expertise ranging from medical group operations to revenue cycle management and clinical expertise.

Dr. Rohatsch completed his military service in the US Air Force and earned his MD from Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. Dr. Rohatsch served on the Yale School of Medicine faculty teaching at the medical school and is currently on faculty at the Haslam School of Business at the University of Tennessee teaching in the Executive MBA Program. He also serves on several boards and chairs The TJ Lobraico Foundation.

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