Blood glucose meters are small, computerized devices that measure and display your blood glucose level. These devices are helpful for 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 may 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. These range 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 your insurance may not always provide coverage. Study all options before picking out a meter. If you have insurance, check which type of meter your insurance covers. You’ll want to consider up-front costs, such as how much the actual meter costs, and long-term costs, such as the price of testing strips and other supplies.
Once you have your meter, work with your doctor to learn how to use it properly.
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 to ask yourself before you choose a meter:
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 the right 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 other supplies.
How much will this meter cost?
Some meters can be costly, and insurance companies don’t always make allowances for pricier options. You’ll have to pay the difference if your meter exceeds your company’s coverage. Also, test strips are sold separately from meters and can be expensive. Insurance companies sometimes set a cap on how many they’ll pay for in a year or strips per month.
How easy is it to use this meter?
Testing procedures vary for each meter. Some require more work than others. For instance, how much blood does the test strip require? Can you easily read the numbers on the screen?
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? Or does it require calibration or not?
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 writing down your numbers in a notebook, you may only need a streamlined machine that takes readings but doesn’t record them.
However, if you know you’ll be on the go and have a hard time keeping track of your numbers, look for a meter that has memory options. Some meters create logs that you can retrieve at a later time. Even better, some create a downloadable file that syncs with your computer and can be emailed to your doctor or nurse.
Be sure to check if your meter time and date are set up correctly.
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. On the other hand, 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.
Other special features include:
- audio capability, for people with vision impairments
- backlit screens, which make reading at night or in low light easier
- various amounts of memory storage
- 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
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 glucose readings. Be sure to review how to use your meter and practice testing your blood glucose with your doctor.
Dirty testing site
Food, drink, or lotion residue on your hands can affect your blood glucose reading. 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 and use the second drop of blood, not the first.
Altitude, humidity, and room temperature can all 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. 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 whether a particular testing strip will work with your blood glucose meter, call the manufacturer of the meter.
To ensure accurate readings, carefully review the instructions provided by the manufacturer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 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’re using the correct techniques.
There are many different types of meters on the market to help people with diabetes regularly and accurately check their blood glucose level. Be sure to spend time to educate yourself with the various options, and ask your doctor or nurse for any help or recommendations.