If you have diabetes, blood glucose meters are a part of life—they allow you to measure the amount of glucose in your blood, which is a critical metric to monitor for this condition.
In fact, having the right glucose meter can make a world of difference in managing your diabetes. Read on for key information to consider when shopping for the best glucometer for you.
What Is a Glucometer?
A glucose meter (or glucometer) is used to measure the amount of glucose in your blood. It’s a portable medical device that tests your blood through a fingerstick sample. The kit contains a battery-operated digital meter, lancets (small needles), a lancet device that adjusts the depth of the fingerstick depending on skin thickness, test strips, control solution and tracking software or a blood glucose logbook. The test strips are impregnated with a glucose-specific enzyme that reacts to the blood sample. Using electrochemical technology, the device reads the strip.
Glucose is a sugar that our bodies use as an energy source. If you have diabetes, your body has difficulty with glucose regulation. Keeping glucose levels within range is important for diabetics—it not only helps improve energy and mood, but also helps prevent serious health problems like vision loss, kidney disease, cardiovascular disorders and early death. A glucometer can help you achieve your blood sugar goals with better adherence to your medication.
Having a glucometer is beneficial for people with diabetes types 1 and 2 or gestational diabetes (during pregnancy). Tracking your blood sugar levels helps you to understand the importance of how diet and exercise affects your glucose levels, and it also helps your doctor adjust your individualized treatment plan.
Types of Glucometer
There are two types of glucose meters: standard and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs).
Standard Glucose Meters
This type is a good fit for people who don’t require frequent testing or insulin injections.
It measures current blood glucose by a fingerstick sample placed on a test strip and inserted into the device.
Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs)
This type is a good fit for people with type 1 diabetes, those who require tight blood sugar control, people who have an insulin pump, those who don’t experience warning signs or symptoms of low blood glucose and people who have frequent high or low levels.
It’s non-invasive and doesn’t require fingersticks.
It measures blood glucose in real time using a sensor placed on your skin.
Benefits of Glucometers
Overall, the main benefits associated with glucose meters include:
Staying on track with your blood sugar goals
Avoiding the emergency room due to too high or too low blood sugar
Having long-term success with blood sugar control, which leads to fewer complications like heart, kidney or eye disease
Most people with diabetes check their blood sugar levels daily, and before the convenience of home blood sugar monitoring, this process required frequent visits to a doctor’s office or hospital.
They can also provide valuable information that patients can share with their medical team for health assessments and clinical decision making, she adds.
How to Use a Glucometer
At first, using a glucose meter may seem overwhelming, but it becomes easier after a bit of practice.
For a standard glucometer, follow these steps:
Make sure the meter is clean.
Remove a test strip and immediately close the strip container, as strips can get damaged easily.
Wash and dry your hands, and then gently massage your hand to improve blood flow.
Use a lancet (a small needle included in the glucometer kit) to prick your finger. The lancet is inserted into the lancing device (also included) and set to the ideal depth to pierce the thickness of your skin. Squeeze from the base of your finger and gently place a small amount of blood onto the test strip. Always use a new, clean lancet each time.
Place the strip into the meter. After a few seconds, your reading will appear, typically expressed as mg/dL (milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood).
Record your results in a logbook or on the meter’s software. Add notes about anything that might have made the reading out of your target range, such as food you recently ate or any activity.
Properly dispose of the lancet and strip.
Meanwhile, to use a CGM, a sensor wire is inserted just under the skin, and is held in place with an adhesive patch. A transmitter connects to the sensor and provides your blood sugar readings to a receiver (in many cases, it can be your smartphone). Depending on your CGM, you might still need to check the device by testing your blood glucose with a standard glucometer. If you’re interested in a CGM, your doctor and the CGM’s manual can provide you with more details on use, warnings, precautions, side effects and more.
How to Read a Glucometer
Once you know your blood glucose level, you need to know whether the number is in your normal range.
The ADA recommends the following target ranges for non-pregnant adults with diabetes. However, be sure to talk to your doctor about their recommendations for your individualized treatment plan, as blood glucose targets vary based on your age, duration of your diabetes and other conditions you may have.
TIMING TARGET BLOOD GLUCOSE LEVEL
Before a meal 80-130 mg/dL
One to two hours after the beginning of a meal Less than 180 mg/dL
Features to Consider When Buying the Best Glucometer for You
There are many factors to consider when purchasing a glucometer, including:
Ease of use. Consider how fast you get results, the size of the meter and the frequency of testing required, although the number of times a day you should check your blood glucose can depend on the type of diabetes you have and how well-controlled your glucose levels are. Other factors that can affect ease of use include calibration requirements, the meter’s ability to test at alternate sites, such as the forearm or palm, and compatibility with apps for easy tracking and monitoring.
Accuracy. Neither standard glucometers nor CGMs are as accurate as a laboratory test, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires glucose meter results to be within 15% of lab results 95% of the time. Look for “FDA approved” on the glucometer kit package before purchasing.
Price. Standard glucose meters can range from Rs. 1000/- to more than Rs. 2000/-, but be sure to consider the cost of the test strips, too. Meanwhile, CGMs are often upwards of Rs. 5000/-. These prices don’t include the cost of monthly supplies, which is considerably higher for CGMs than standard glucose meters.
Information storage and retrieval. This criteria can include features like whether the meter is compatible with Bluetooth, how readings are displayed, physician access, whether you’re able to download your readings and what type of historical data the meter provides.