Advances in Glucose Monitoring

Alternative Site Testing

Some glucose meters are designed to test blood from alternative sites on your body, such as the upper arm, thigh, calf, forearm, or base of the thumb. Drawing blood from these alternative sites may be desirable, especially for people who have chronic soreness or finger pain as a result of frequent pricking.

However, testing from these sites has limitations. Blood in the fingertips shows changes in blood glucose more accurately and faster than blood in other parts of the body. That means the readings from alternative site testing may be different (and therefore less reliable) than readings taken from the fingertip. Though promising, further research is needed to better understand the value of the different readings and implications they may have on the health of people with diabetes.

Skin Testing

Worn on the arm like a wristwatch, this device uses electric currents to repeatedly pull tiny amounts of fluid from the skin to a sensor pad where the glucose in the fluid is measured. (It does not actually puncture the skin.) If your blood sugar level dips too far or becomes too high, it sounds an alarm. It is not effective if worn while you are sweating, and it may cause possible skin irritation. Skin irritation has been such an issue that no models are currently in use. New models are on the horizon and may be available in the near future.

Continuous Glucose Monitoring

Continuous glucose monitors allow you to record your blood sugar levels through the day in real time. They can tell you which direction your glucose is going with an alarm to alert you if you are trending too far down or up, so you can take action as needed.

This technique uses a small plastic catheter placed just under the skin to measure blood sugar levels. This catheter is connected to a transmitter, which transmits each reading to a small recording device worn on the body. You change the sensor every three to seven days, depending on the meter. Also, you still have to test your glucose with a finger stick twice a day to calibrate the continuous glucose meter.

Consider the following when choosing a continuous glucose meter:

  • how frequently you have to change the sensor
  • the range of the transmitter (how far away you can be before you lose the connection to the receiver)
  • whether the continuous meter can work wirelessly with your glucose meter so that the continuous meter is automatically calibrated when you do your finger stick test
  • whether your meter works directly with an insulin pump (if this is a feature you want)
  • whether it is approved for children (if you are getting the meter for your child)

Infrared Spectroscopy

Although infrared spectroscopy is still in development, researchers believe this technology will allow for testing without drawing blood in the future. This test is performed by shining a beam of light on the skin. The light penetrates the skin and measures blood sugar levels. Variations in blood pressure, body temperature, and room conditions can affect the accuracy of infrared spectroscopy. Therefore, it may be important to perform a traditional blood sugar test periodically to confirm the infrared monitor’s readings.