What To Look For When Buying a Glucometer

Updated June 3, 2022


Blood glucose monitors are small hand-held devices that are used to measure blood glucose levels at home. Testing blood glucose is part of the management of diabetic patients. There are varieties of glucometers in the market that comes with different features. Type-1 diabetic patients and Type-2 diabetic patients on insulin have to check blood glucose more frequently. A primary goal of treatment is to keep blood sugar in the normal range as much of the time as possible. Keeping blood sugar in a normal range not only helps in the reduction of long-term complications but also potentially life-threatening complications of hypoglycemia. 

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There are several things to keep in mind when choosing the best glucometer, for example:

Ease of Use

Glucometers should be easy to use. Some glucometer models are easier to use with large LCD, backlit screen.

Coding

Test strips vary from batch to batch. In Some glucometers, you have to manually enter a code or a chip in the glucometer every time while using the new test strip’s box. The code or chip comes with a new box of strips. This can be a hassle in times of emergency. Entering the wrong code gives an error. Some newer models do not require coding or automatically code when the test strip is inserted in the meter.

Display

The glucose result is shown either in mg/dl or mmol/l units. Preference for a unit of measurement varies by country. Units of preference can be set according to the instruction given in the meter guide.

Operating time

Different models give test results in 3- 60 seconds. Newer models are faster and typically give results in 3-5 seconds.

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Storage

Memory is an important aspect of the diabetic care plan. Glucometers can keep a record of the previous 10-500 test results with date and times depending on the model. Some glucometers also calculate average results of the past 7,14 or 28 days. Readings of glucose show trends and patterns over days and weeks.

Blood Sample Size

The size of the blood sample required ranges from 0.3 microliters to 1 microliter in different models. Older models required larger blood samples. Newer glucometers have the sip in sampling feature, so they can give accurate readings even with drops as small as 0.3 microliters. Smaller samples minimize strip wastage and allow for more comfortable skin prick. Some models has a feature of second chance sampling that allow to add more blood within 20 seconds if sample size is not enough.

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Alternative Sampling Site

Some models allow for taking samples from alternate sites, such as from the thighs, arms, forearms, and palms. Alternative site testing gives finger a break. Even with these models, it is recommended to take a blood sample from the fingertip in case of emergency or doubt in the test results. Fingertips have a richer blood supply so it is easier to collect a good amount of blood immediately.

Accuracy of Result

Some glucometers are FDA-approved, clinically proven, or ISO standardized, and are claimed to give accurate and reliable results. Usually, Glucometers results are +/ – 15 % of lab results. In the laboratory, glucose is checked in venous plasma. Venous plasma glucose is 11 % higher than glucose level in whole blood ( as usually measured by glucometers). Some glucometers calculate by equations automatically and show a plasma equivalent reading.

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Cost

They range in price from $25-75 but testing strips can be expensive. Glucometer companies largely earn from selling these test strips. They may get expired too, and expired strips give incorrect results. In some glucometers, generic testing stripes can not be used. Ask the pharmacist before buying.

Insurance Coverage

Insurance companies may have a list of pre-approved meters that they cover.

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Special features

  • Monitors with large displays or with audio capabilities suitable for patients with vision problems.
  • Backlit screens make reading easier in low light or at night.
  • Alarm reminder
  • Second chance sampling-gives a chance to add more blood on the strip within few seconds if sample size is not enough. It avoids wasting of test strips and money.
  • Some glucometers can test blood ketones, cholesterol level, and even Uric acid levels too.
  • Risk indicators for blood glucose levels lower than 70mg/dl or higher than 180mg/dl.
  • Colorful options are available for children.

Size

Newer models are smaller, compact, pocket-sized, and are easy to carry around.

Data transfer

Some models stores blood sugar readings and calculate average blood sugar levels. Some also have USB port to download data directly into a computer. Some newer glucometers are Bluetooth enabled, so the data can be synced with a PC or a smartphone. They offer free apps that automatically store and analyze test results. Data can be shared with the attending physician. There are many additional features on the provided app by which one can store, monitor or track blood sugar readings. Some people care about privacy so want to keep the data on the monitor only.

Battery power

Many glucometers use a pair of AAA batteries, some use Lithium ions, long-life batteries that can give thousands of readings before the requirement to charge the battery.

Continuous Glucose Monitors.

Continuous glucose monitors or CGMs have been recently introduced. It uses a sensor implanted under the skin which takes glucose readings in tissue fluid continuously throughout the day and night and wirelessly sends results to a monitor. They work as an artificial pancreas. The monitor can connect to a smartphone or integrate with an insulin pump which delivers the required dose of insulin automatically.

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