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.

Since it’s still extremely important for those with diabetes to keep tabs on their blood sugar readings, 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 don’t involve finger sticks, and how to talk with your doctor about whether these noninvasive options are right for you.

A traditional blood glucose meter is the most tried-and-true method of glucose monitoring for diabetes.

However, in recent years, other technologies have come out to help make the process more painless by not using finger pricks. These noninvasive monitors are known as continuous glucose monitors (CGMs).

Is there a glucose meter that doesn’t require blood?

A CGM is a type of meter that doesn’t 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.

FreeStyle Libre

Upon its approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017, the FreeStyle Libre was the first CGM on the market for adults with diabetes that didn’t require blood samples from finger pricks. Instead, this meter reads glucose from interstitial fluids just underneath the skin.

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.

The original Libre system doesn’t 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, too, 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 reports of inaccurate numbers. You may also experience skin irritation from applying the sensor.

Learn more about the FreeStyle Libre 2.

Eversense CGM

Another type of CGM on the market is Eversense, a subcutaneous implant device made by Senseonics. It was approved by the FDA in 2019 for people with diabetes.

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.

Learn more about the Eversense CGM here.

Dexcom G6 CGM

Approved by the FDA in 2018, the Dexcom G6 is the first CGM intended to work with other diabetes devices, including insulin pumps, dosing meters, and more. This CGM is designed for people 2 years and older.

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 dislike the need to have to change the sensor after 10 days.

Learn more about the Dexcom G6 CGM.

Guardian Connect System

Also approved by the FDA in 2018, the Guardian Connect System is a CGM made by Medtronic, a company that also makes insulin pumps.

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 and older.

Learn more about the Guardian Connect System.

Other meters being developed

Besides the above four CGMs, other meters are being developed that don’t 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 approved by the FDA.

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.

Read more about CGMs and how to choose one from DiabetesMine.

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. Don’t use hand sanitizer before using 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. This is in case you experience symptoms of high or low blood sugar despite a normal reading.

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.