Choosing a Glucose Meter

If you have diabetes, it is likely you use a blood glucose meter. This small computerized device measures and displays blood glucose levels. Exercise, medications, stress levels and food intake all play a role in a person's current blood glucose level. People with diabetes are able to manage the disease more successfully with a blood glucose meter, as the device allows them to track any changes that result from varying factors such as food intake and stress.

There are many kinds of blood glucose meters on the market today. They range from basic devices to advanced meters that include multiple options and features. Weigh all available options before settling on a glucose meter purchase.

Choosing the right meter

When you choose a blood glucose meter, it helps to understand its basic functionality. Most blood glucose meters have a place to insert a test strip into one end of the device. After you've inserted this strip, you stick a clean fingertip with a special needle called a lancet, which draws a drop of blood. You then touch the opposite end of the test strip to the blood. A blood glucose reading comes up on the screen shortly afterward.

Typically, all blood glucose meters offer accurate glucose counts, but it is still important to consider the various factors that influence different devices. Here are a few factors to consider when making your decision:

  • Insurance. Consult with your insurance provider for coverage information before you make a purchase. Some providers have a limit for the number of test strips they cover or they have limited coverage for particular models.
  • Cost. There is a price range for blood glucose meters. Don't forget to consider the cost of the test strips as well, especially if you will be paying for some or all of them out of pocket. Because test strips are used so frequently, they are often the most costly component of glucose readings.
  • Ease of use and maintenance. Not all meters are easy to use. Read reviews and get feedback from other diabetics who use glucose meters to determine which one will be the most user-friendly.
  • Special features. Review the feature options available for meters to determine what fits your needs. For example, people who have impaired vision might benefit from a meter with a large screen or an audio feature that reads the results.
  • Information storage and retrieval. Figure out how the meter stores and retrieves your information. Some meters track all of your typical logging data, such as the date and time and trends that occur over time. Other meters offer capability to download the information to electronic devices.
  • Support. Many meter companies offer toll-free numbers as well as manuals on their websites to assist users as needed.

Advances in monitoring tools

The finger stick remains the traditional method for glucose monitoring. However, a couple alternatives for this process are less painful.

  • Alternative site monitor. It allows blood samples to be taken from areas of the body that are not as painful as a finger, such as the thigh or arm. It does not provide results that are as accurate when blood sugar level is increasing or decreasing rapidly.
  • Continuous glucose testing. A sensor is placed under the skin to track the blood sugar level. It transmits a reading to a recording device that is worn on the body and sounds an alarm if the level is too high or low. This monitoring method is expensive and necessitates a new sensor every three to seven days. You'll still use a standard device for insulin dosing and low level treatment.
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