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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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
- 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.
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
- 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.
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.
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
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.
Retrieving past test results is usually done via the buttons and should be
easy and uncomplicated.
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
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
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.
Please consult the services of your
doctor and/or other members of your health care team
before implementing any of the advice contained on this site.
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