Glucose Monitors
Diabetic Devices For Reading Blood Sugar Levels

Diabetes Guide


Glucose Meters


What Are Glucose Monitors?
How Do They Work?
How Much Blood Is Required?
How Accurate Are Monitors?
How Often Should I Test?
Is There Any Meter That Requires No Blood Sample?

Overview of Condition
Diabetes Guide

Product Review
Guide To Buying Glucose Monitors

Blood Sample Chart
Actual Size

What Are Glucose Monitors?

These are small computer devices that read your blood glucose levels. They are an essential tool for people with both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. By measuring their glucose levels every day, diabetics can better understand how their body is reacting to diet, stress, exercise and illness. For insulin dependent diabetics, the reading on the monitor will help them determine if they need an insulin shot and if so, what dosage. Prior to the invention of glucose monitors (also called glucometers or glucose meters) in the 1980s, the only method for blood glucose monitoring was a urine test. The monitor itself is not the only piece of equipment you need to test your levels. You will also need test strips, a lancing device to draw blood and accessories like a carrying case and a disposal container for used lancets.

Test Strips: There are 2 types of test strips, one that checks for glucose and the other which tests for ketones, although the latter sort is less common. Test strips are specially prepared components which are inserted into the monitor and then the person places a drop of their blood on it. Chemicals on the strip react to the blood and allow the monitor to take a glucose reading.
Lancing Device: This is a spring loaded device which contains a sharp lancet. You push the button of the device and a lancet springs out and pokes your finger, drawing a drop of blood. The lancet needs to be replaced after every use to prevent infections.
Studies show that individuals who monitor the glucose levels regularly can slow down the onset of diabetes complications by as much as 70 percent. It can delay problems such as retinopathy (eye disease), nephropathy (kidney disorder) and neuropathy (nervous system disorder).

How Do They Work?

Some glucose meters are easier to use than others. Generally a reading is taken as follows:
1. The monitor is switched on and a test strip is inserted.
2. After a few seconds the blood drop symbol appears on the monitor.
3. The patient wipes their finger with an alcohol pad to disinfect the area. Then, holding the hand downwards, they massage the finger with their thumb in a downward motion towards the tip. This helps to stimulate blood flow.
4. Using the lancing device, puncture the finger.
5. Squeeze the finger to form a drop of blood and place the drop on the end of the test strip.
6. The meter automatically starts to test the blood for glucose levels. The result takes a few seconds to appear after which it is stored in the memory of the device so it can be downloaded by your doctor onto their PC for tracking. This information will help your medical team monitor the effectiveness of your diabetes treatment.
Note: testing from other sites in the body other than the finger, is also generally reliable, except for an hour after eating or immediately after exercise.
In Pictures: For a visual demonstration: Step by Step Guide.

How Much Blood Is Required?

Most monitors only require a small drop of blood to perform a test - about 0.3 to 1.5 microliters in size. The chart above on the left side of this page, shows you how small this actually looks in reality. If you'd like to learn more about your condition in general, have a read of our articles on the causes of diabetes and the symptoms of diabetes. If you are insulin dependent, have you considered using insulin pens?

How Accurate Are Monitors?

All the leading monitors on the market today are quite accurate - although they do not have the same accuracy as a lab test. Meters are probably plus or minus 10 percent compared to a lab test. Most mistakes that arise from using a meter are likely to due to user. To avoid a poor reading:
1. Keep your meter clean. As meters are so cheap these days consider replacing it every year.
2. Keep your meter and strips at room temperature.
3. Avoid using outdated test strips.
4. Test strips are usually designed for specific manufacturer's machines, so don't use the wrong ones in the wrong machine. Some manufacturers practically give meters away because it means you have to buy their strips - for a price!
5. Check that your blood sample is not too small.
6. Ask your diabetes educator to check your skills at least once a year. Error can creep in over time.

How Often Should I Test?

How often you test depends on the diabetes diagnosis you received: which type of diabetes you have, the kind of treatment you are using and the general stability of your blood glucose levels.

Testing Before Meals
If you have type 1 or 2 diabetes and you are taking insulin before meals you will need to test before every meal and at bedtime. No matter how well you think you can control your levels, testing is still critical. Studies show that patients who try to guess their levels are incorrect 50 percent of the time. Patients with type 1 will also need to test one hour after eating and occasionally in the middle of the night.
Type 2 Diabetics
If you manage your condition with insulin pills or just diet and exercise you may only need to test your glucose levels twice a day - before breakfast and before dinner. Any less than this and you are not keeping enough information about your glucose levels to test the effectiveness of your treatment.

Is There Any Meter That Requires No Blood Sample?

No, all meters require a blood sample, but some meters boast the ability to provide a glucose reading using alternate site testing. This means you can take a blood sample from another part of the body such as the fleshy part of the palm or the forearm. Alternative sites, however are not reliable sources of blood an hour after eating or immediately after exercise. Note: it is important to remember that in managing your disease, there are many other diabetes tests you should undergo on a regular basis. Be sure to plan these with your healthcare team.

Related Questions
Are there blood glucose monitors that don't require strips?
What is a normal blood sugar count?

Are there any home tests for diabetes?

  Related Articles on Glucometers

For more diabetic related issues, see the following:

Books on diabetes: Management of your disease.
Diabetes Resources - Check out our list of recommended websites.
Diabetes Facts

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