Glucometer



ONETOUCH Glucometer with Lancet device and test strips

A glucometer, also called a glucose meter or glucose monitoring device, is a battery operated meter that measures the concentration of glucose in the blood. It is this technology that enables diabetics to monitor their blood sugar levels and take corrective actions, because their bodies are not doing it automatically anymore.



What You Need to Use Your Glucometer

Lancet - For pricking the finger, to draw blood. The lancet is fitted into a spring loaded lancing device, supplied with your glucose meter. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to set the depth and for replacing the lancet.

Glucose Test Strips - Glucose meters each has their own unique strips, use only the strips for your meter. Any of the others will not work on your meter. 

Glucometer - Obviously

Tissue - For blotting your finger after the test.

Notebook - For recording the test results. Even if you collect your records in a journal, a small notebook and pen kept with your equipment is still very useful.

Time -  Testing is fast, but still take time. From pricking the finger to recording the result, should take no more than 30 seconds. It is the washing of hands, setting out the equipment and packing it away that take up the most of the test time.







Choosing a Glucometer

There are only two things of vital importance in a glucometer; Accuracy and consistency. Anything else is there merely for convenience or just pure marketing gimmicks. Only buy from a dealer who will refund you if you have problems with either important function.

Testing the accuracy of the meter involves testing with a control solution instead of blood. The best would be when it falls midway in the range specified. You can get the control solution from your meter's manufacturer. Manufacturers do supply a control solution. Many of them will do it free of charge. 

Testing for consistency is by taking four readings in succession. When your blood sugars are within the 70 - 120 mg/dl range, the four readings should be within 5 percent of one another. You could do this in the store, before buying.

Apart from the accuracy and consistency, which are non-negotiable, here are some other factors to take into consideration when choosing a glucometer.

  • Whole Blood Glucose vs. Plasma Glucose. Using blood from the finger is testing whole blood. Plasma glucose is generally 10% - 15% higher than whole-blood glucose. Laboratory tests are done with plasma. To make it easier to compare home testing with laboratory tests, some glucose meters give the results as plasma equivalent, which is calculated using an equation built into the glucometer. It is important to know if your meter gives results as whole-blood equivalent or plasma equivalent.
  • Ease of Use.  The meter should be comfortable and easy to hold. You should not feel clumsy handling the test strips. The buttons must be easily accessible and comfortable to use. The display must be easy to read. The accompanied manual must be understandable. Changing any settings must be easy and straight forward.
  • Units. Glucose meters give values in either mmol/L or mg/dL. Many meters now have a switch that allows you to change between units. Either a physical switch or with an option that you can set. Use the unit that your health care team recommends. 
  • Size. Meters are generally small enough to be carried around without many problems. However, the size of the meter you select must be such that the buttons and screen are not too tiny for your own comfort.
  • Display. The screen must be easy to read. There are meters available for the visually impaired, giving audible instructions and results. Illuminated screens are also attainable for some models.
  • Cost. The biggest cost in home blood sugar monitoring is the test strips. Some manufacturers provide meters at no cost to encourage the use of their profitable test strips. Factor in the cost of the test strips. In the long run, a more expensive meter with cheaper test strips would be more affordable  than a cheap meter with costly test strips. 
  • Maintenance. Glucose meters are generally easy to maintain. One maintenance task is the regular testing the accuracy of the meter with a control solution. Another maintenance chore is replacing the battery. Ease of replacing and availability of the battery could determine your choice of a glucometer.
  • Insurance. It is advisable to find out from your insurance provider what they will cover. Your provider might support only specific models and/or limit the number of test strips.
  • Support. Look for the availability for support from the  manufacturer - phone number, e-mail and web address. Included with the meter must be clear instructions on the correct use of the meter. Some manufacturers have user manuals on their websites, investigate before purchasing.
  • Glucose Test Strips. Test strips must be simple to handle, and it must be easy to apply the blood. Never use counterfeit test strips, to save costs, they are inherently inaccurate.
  • Coding. Test strips could vary from batch to batch. To cater for this, manufacturers calibrate each batch separately. Each batch is therefore supplied with a code that will let the meter do the necessary adjustments. In some meters, this code must be entered manually, which can lead to disastrous results if entered incorrectly. With some models, the code is integrated into the strip, and the adjustment happens without you even aware of it. Other meters have a chip that is supplied with each vial, and the new chip must be inserted into the meter whenever a fresh vial is started. Some manufacturers have found a way to standardize the manufacturing methods of all batches and therefore, have done away with coding altogether.   
  • Blood Sample Volume. Different glucometers require different size of the drop of blood. Some require a large drop, defined as a hanging drop. Smaller volumes of blood will reduce the number of unproductive finger pricks.
  • Alternative Site Testing. Some manufacturers have advocated using different sites to draw blood like, the forearms, stomach, buttocks, etc. They even supply the equipment and instructions to do it. This is due to the areas being less sensitive than the fingers. However, in rapidly changing blood sugar levels, the alternate sites trail behind the finger tips, by as much as 20 minutes.
  • Clock and Memory. Most meters have a clock that the user has to set the time and date. Meters with memory store past test results. This is useful to look for trends and patterns. Some can display an average of recent readings. Often the clock is set incorrectly, due to time changes, or the clock loses its settings from static electricity or a battery change. This can result in any stored readings misrepresented. It would be wise not to depend solely on the meter to keep record of your blood sugar tests. Write down the reading in a notebook as well.
  • Data retrieval. Retrieving past test results is usually done via the buttons and should be easy and uncomplicated.
  • Data Transfer. Some models allow for transferring of the stored results to a computer with diabetic management software via Bluetooth, infrared or a cable. Some manufacturers have their own diabetes management software that interact seamlessly with their meters. This could become a hindrance if/when you replace your meter for another make, and it does not communicate with your software.
  • Other Features. With the advance in technology and more sophisticated data handling, many meters allow entry of other diabetes-related  data, such as exercise, insulin dose and/or carbohydrates ingested. This additional data could be easier recorded and stored on a cell phone or notebook and later transferred to your diabetic management software. Do not be blinded by these features and forget the main requirements of accuracy and  consistency, when selecting a glucometer.

For Contemplation

Asking your doctor, which glucometer he recommends might just be the only method needed in choosing the right glucose meter.

A glucometer may become inaccurate or even malfunction if exposed to low/high temperatures or exposed to moisture. Glucose test strips have an expiry date, incorrect measures will be the result of using outdated strips. Keep your glucometer and test strips in a clean dry place.

Make sure that you have a spare set of batteries, that fit your meter, always available.



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