Are there alternatives to finger pricking for people with diabetes?

Many diabetes patients find that drawing blood for glucose testing from arms and other places hurts less than the traditional finger-prick. The results are not always comparable, however.

Alternate-site testing allows you to draw blood from areas such as the palm, arm and thigh; only the fingertips and palm give a current blood glucose result. If you take blood from the arm or thigh, it tells you what your blood sugar was 20 to 35 minutes ago.

You should always rub the arm and thigh before testing to bring fresh blood to the skin surface. An alternate-site reading is fine if you haven’t eaten for the past four hours or so and when you wake up, because most likely the blood sugar is stable. But results obtained from the arm or thigh are not helpful if you need to know what your blood sugar is right now and you are testing at a time when the blood sugar level is changing, such as an hour or two after a meal. An alternate-site test can give deceptively comforting results at a time when your blood sugar actually is dangerously low.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives these guidelines:
  1. People with hypoglycemia unawareness (your body gives no warning when your blood sugar is low) should never use alternate-site testing.
  2. For others, don’t use alternate sites when you have just taken insulin, anytime during or after exercise, when you are ill, when you just feel “low,” when you are about to drive or whenever your day is not routine, such as having to eat at an unusual time.
  3. Alternate-site testing can provide a break from the finger-prick routine, but it needs to be used with care.

Continue Learning about Diabetes


Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.