While finger stick monitors have long been a mainstay in diabetes management, pricking your finger to obtain a blood sample several times a day can be painful and time-consuming.
Even so, it’s still extremely important for those with diabetes to keep tabs on their blood sugar readings. The number of times per day depends on your individual diagnosis and the treatment plan your doctor has prescribed.
Many things, such as stress, illness, and exercise, can also impact your blood sugar throughout the day.
As such, many are looking for alternatives to make the process easier. In the last few years, there have been several new technologies to help in the development of blood sugar monitors without finger pricks.
Read on to learn more about which types of blood sugar monitors do not involve finger sticks and how to talk with your doctor about whether these noninvasive options are right for you.
Whether you’re looking for a glucose monitor that uses a blood sample or a noninvasive monitor, there are several factors to consider before you choose a meter.
A good first step is to check with your insurance company to see which monitors are covered in part or in full. Knowing your price range can make things easier by helping narrow your search. Since you’re likely to go through multiple test strips per day, this is also a good time to check whether your insurance plan covers test strips.
Accuracy is critical when choosing a glucose monitor. After all, your insulin dose and treatment options depend on what the results say.
This consistency should not waver outside of the lab meter difference of 15 percent higher or lower reading accepted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Data display is essential as you need to be able to see the numbers on the screen. If you have vision problems, a larger screen or a monitor that comes equipped with audio capability to “say” the results out loud can be helpful.
Some glucose monitors also come with a backlight display, which makes it easier to view the screen at night and in low-light settings.
Ease of use
Since you’re likely going to be using your device several times per day, having a device that’s easy to use is helpful. If the device is too complicated (e.g., requires coding or is too long to read), you’re less likely to use it.
The more comfortable you are using your monitor, the better.
For instance, if you’re on the go a lot, a compact model may be better suited for your needs. You don’t want to feel uncomfortable holding a device that’s too small, either, so it might be a good idea to test out the size before buying.
Certain features make a monitor easier and more fun to use, like Bluetooth connectivity or storage capacity. For example, if you prefer recording your readings on the device instead of writing them down, there are currently plenty of options.
You can also find a device that comes with time and date stamps for a better look at health patterns.
The FreeStyle Libre received
The FreeStyle Libre works via a sensor you wear on the back of your upper arm, which you apply every 14 days. To read your glucose numbers, you wave the monitor in front of the sensor.
It’s recommended that you repeat the process several times per day. You can also use your phone (using an app that accompanies the Freestyle Libre) to scan as an alternative to the monitor.
The original Libre system does not come with alarms to alert you when your blood sugar is too low or too high. However, the Libre 2 system does have these features.
While the Libre is intended for adults, the Libre 2 may be suitable for children. Note that there is now a Libre 3 system, which is approved for use by people with diabetes in Europe.
While users enjoy the ability to check their blood glucose without the use of finger pricks, there are
Eversense, a subcutaneous implant device made by Senseonics, is another type of CGM on the market. It was
Eversense works via a small sensor implanted in your skin, along with a transmitter you wear on top. This is usually applied to your upper arm.
It measures your glucose in your interstitial fluids every 5 minutes and sends the data to your smartphone. The sensor works for up to 90 days at a time.
Unlike the FreeStyle Libre, you must get the Eversense set up at your doctor’s office, where they will insert the subcutaneous device for you. This could potentially be problematic if you aren’t able to see your doctor every 90 days.
One reported downside is the Eversense CGM’s sensitivity to direct sunlight. This is an important consideration to talk about with your doctor before determining the ideal insertion site.
Dexcom G6 CGM
The Dexcom G6
The Dexcom G6 consists of a sensor you wear just underneath the surface of your skin in the abdominal area. It lasts for 10 days at a time and is also water resistant. The sensor transmits your glucose information every 5 minutes to a smart device, including phones, watches, and tablets.
Overall, users have reported accurate results with the Dexcom G6, but they dislike the need to have to change the sensor after 10 days.
Guardian Connect System
The system works similarly to the Dexcom G6 in that you wear a sensor on your abdomen along with a transmitter that then submits your glucose information to a smart device every 5 minutes. You can also wear this device on your arm, similar to the FreeStyle Libre.
Unlike other CGMs, the Guardian Connect focuses on “time in range” data to give users a better idea of how long they achieve ideal glucose ranges at a time. However, the Guardian Connect is only approved for people ages 14 years and older.
The innovative technology uses an infrared laser that’s beamed through the skin, causing glucose in the skin to convert the light to heat. The results are then drawn from the amount of heat increase in the skin. In preclinical tests, it was found to be as accurate as test strips.
One major downside to the D-Base model is its size. It’s a stationary shoebox-size device, which makes it difficult to carry around. It’s also not yet ready for purchase. Development is still ongoing on this and several other glucose products made by the company, such as a D-Sensor that’s going to be embedded into watches or fitness bands.
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Other meters being developed
Besides the above four CGMs, other meters are being developed that do not require blood samples. One such CGM is called GlucoTrack by Integrity Applications, which measures blood glucose via your earlobe. However, it hasn’t yet been FDA approved.
Other types of technologies may be seen soon to help improve diabetes management without the need for finger pricks. However, standalone smartwatches, contact lenses, and other buzzworthy devices haven’t yet proven to accurately measure blood glucose.
Whether you’re using a traditional finger-prick monitor or a CGM for your diabetes management, here are some tips to make checking your glucose easier:
- Always wash your hands with soap and water before checking your glucose for a more accurate result. Do not use hand sanitizer before doing finger sticks.
- If inserting a sensor into your skin for a CGM, be sure to wash the area of skin with soap and water and allow it to dry first.
- Call your doctor if you experience skin irritation or discomfort from your sensor that lasts longer than a day.
- Change any sensors by the recommended manufacturer time — for example, every 14 days for the FreeStyle Libre and every 10 days for the Dexcom G6.
- If using finger strips, you may experience less pain by using the side of your fingertip closer to your fingernail.
- Even if you’re using a CGM, you may consider having a traditional meter on hand to double-check your glucose readings. This is in case you experience symptoms of high or low blood sugar despite a normal reading.
Is there a glucose meter that doesn’t require blood?
A CGM is a type of meter that does not require a blood sample. Most CGMs detect glucose through interstitial fluids in skin tissues.
Are noninvasive glucose meters effective?
Noninvasive glucose meters such as CGMs are considered both convenient and effective, though they may not be as accurate when compared with traditional meters.
Is there a smartwatch that monitors blood sugar?
Some CGMs have the capability of connecting to and downloading blood glucose information to your smartwatch. But it’s important to keep in mind that there isn’t a smartwatch that directly measures your blood sugar.
CGMs require a doctor’s prescription and are typically covered by private health insurance as well as Medicare. Depending on your plan, you may still have out-of-pocket costs. Keep in mind that insurance companies may be less willing to cover meters that have additional features that aren’t considered necessities.
If you don’t have insurance, you can still obtain a prescription for a CGM. It’s estimated that CGMs cost at least $100 per month without insurance.
You may ask the pharmacist or manufacturer about possible coupons and discounts to help offset the costs.
While traditional blood glucose meters remain standard, noninvasive options are continuously being developed to make checking your blood glucose easier and less painful.
If you’re looking for a blood sugar monitor without finger pricks, a noninvasive CGM can also measure your glucose. Depending on the type of meter you choose, you may have to wear a sensor on different areas of the body and switch it out after a certain amount of time.
Talk with your doctor about your concerns with blood glucose monitoring, and whether a noninvasive meter may better fit your needs.