Blood glucose meters are small, computerized devices that measure and display your blood glucose level. These devices are mainly used by people with diabetes. If you have diabetes, monitoring your blood glucose level provides you and your doctors with valuable information about how food, exercise, medications, stress, and other factors affect your blood glucose. This information will help you and your doctor construct a treatment plan tailored to your needs.
Many types of blood glucose meters are available for at-home use, from basic models that only read blood glucose levels, to more advanced versions that offer features such as memory for storing information. The cost of blood glucose meters and testing supplies varies, and insurance may not always provide coverage. Study all options before picking out a meter, and if you have insurance, check which meter your insurance covers. Consider up-front costs, such as how much the actual meter costs, and long-term costs, such as how expensive testing strips and other supplies are. Then, work with your doctor and learn how to properly use your meter.
Choosing a glucose meter
Whether this is your first blood glucose meter or you’ve used one for several years and are looking for an upgrade, there are several questions you should ask yourself before you begin looking:
Does your doctor or nurse suggest a specific meter?
These people have a wealth of experience with an array of meters and can guide you in a good direction.
What does your insurance cover?
Your insurance company may have a list of preapproved meters it covers. Also, make sure to find out if and how your insurance will cover the cost of testing strips and supplies.
How much will this meter cost you?
Some meters can be costly and insurance companies don’t always make allowances for pricier options. You’ll have to pay the difference if it exceeds your company’s coverage. Also, test strips are sold separately from meters and can be pricey. Insurance companies sometimes set a cap on how many they will pay for in a year.
How easily can you use this meter?
Testing procedures vary for each meter and some require more work than others. How much blood does the test strip require? Can you see the numbers on the screen easily?
How long does it take to get a reading?
Your time is valuable and while a few seconds may seem inconsequential, that amount of time can add up when you’re testing several times a day.
Is the meter easy to maintain?
Is it simple to clean? Is it quick and easy to calibrate when you get new strips?
Can the device store your readings?
Tracking your blood glucose numbers is vital to long-term care, so keeping a record is important. If you’re comfortable with writing down your numbers in a notebook, you may want a more streamlined machine that only takes readings and doesn’t record them. However, if you know you’ll be on the go and have a hard time keeping track of the numbers, look for a meter that has memory options. Some meters create logs that you can retrieve at a later time. Even better, some meters create a downloadable file that syncs with your computer and can be emailed to your doctor or nurse.
Do you want any special features?
If you know you’ll be carrying this meter with you while on the go, you may want a compact option. If you have a hard time holding on to small models, you may prefer a large meter with strips that are easier to use. People with impaired vision may prefer a meter that has an easy-to-read screen or verbal commands and prompts. Colorful options are available for children, as are models with backlighting on the screen, which makes reading at night easier. Other special features include:
- audio capability, for people with vision impairments
- backlit screens to aid low-light visibility
- various memory amounts to store your readings
- different handling capabilities, such as having the strips stored in the meter, or having a USB meter
- meters that record carbohydrate grams and insulin doses with the glucose reading
- meters that can test blood ketone levels along with blood glucose levels
Getting accurate readings
The accuracy of test results depends on a number of issues, including the quality of your meter and test strips, and how well you’ve been trained to operate the device. Here are other factors that can affect your glucose readings:
User-error is the number one reason for errors in testing. Be sure to review how to use your meter and test your blood glucose with your doctor.
Dirty testing site
Food, drink, or lotion residue left on your hands can affect your blood glucose reading, so be sure to wash and dry your hands before you test. If you use an alcohol swab, be sure to let the site dry completely before testing.
Altitude, humidity, and room temperature all can affect your blood glucose readings by altering your body or the strips you use. Some meters come with instructions on how to get proper readings in particular situations.
Incompatible test strips
Testing strips can be pricey, so you may be tempted to try third-party or generic strips in order to save money. However, if your meter isn’t designed to use these strips, your readings may be affected. Be sure alternative test strips are compatible with your machine. Also, be sure to check the expiration date on your strips, as out-of-date strips can provide incorrect results.
Changes in meters or strips
Manufacturers may make changes to their machines or test strips, and third-party or generic strip manufacturers aren’t always made aware when this happens. In this event, testing strips may become incompatible with your meter. If you’re unsure if a particular testing strip will work with your meter, call the manufacturer of your blood glucose meter.
Using your meter
To ensure accurate readings, carefully read the instructions provided by the manufacturer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires that blood glucose meter manufacturers provide detailed instructions in the machine’s packaging. If you have any questions, look for a support hotline and call the manufacturer.
It’s also a good idea to take your meter to your doctor or healthcare team and have them go over the basics of the machine with you. While you’re there, check to see how your machine’s results compare with the machine at your doctor’s office. This will help you see if your machine is correctly calibrated. Be sure to let the doctor or team member observe you doing a test so they can confirm that you are using the correct techniques.
There are many different types of meters on the market to help those with diabetes check their blood glucose level accurately on a routine basis. Be sure to spend time to explore and educate yourself with the various options, and ask your doctor or nurse for any help or recommendations.