What To Look For When Buying a Glucometer

Updated June 3, 2022


Glucometer

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 to suit everyone’s needs and preferences. 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 user-friendly displays.

Coding

Test strips vary from batch to batch. In Some glucometers, you have to manually enter a code or enter a chip in the glucometer every time while using the new test strips box. The code or chip comes with a new box of strips. By Coding or entering chips into a glucometer the meter will be calibrated to the new test strips. This can be a hassle in times of emergency. Entering the wrong code gives an error. In newer models, test strips contain the code information or have a microchip in the vial of strips. These reduce the possibility of user error.

Display

The glucose result is shown either in mg/dL or mmol/L. Preference for a unit of measurement varies by country. To convert mg/dL to mmol/L divide the value by 18 and mmol/L to mg/dL, and multiply the value by 18.

Duration of Testing

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

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Clock and Memory

Most meters now have a clock. The date and time are set by the user. Memory is an important aspect of the diabetic care plan. Glucometers can keep a record of the previous 10-500 test results 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.

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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 capillary action feature so they can give accurate readings even with drops as small as 0.3 microliters.

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Alternative Sampling Site

Some models allow for taking samples from alternative sites. Smaller drops of blood enabled alternative site samplings such as from the thighs, arms, forearms, and palms. In case of emergency or doubt, the sample should be taken from a finger prick. Fingertips have a rich blood supply so it is easy to collect a blood sample immediately.

Accuracy of Result

Glucometers result are +/ – 15 or 20 % 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 which is more accurate.

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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 it covers.

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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.
  • Some glucometers can test blood ketone levels also.
  • 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 but with larger displays.

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Data transfer

Some glucometers link to apps so that you can store and analyze readings. Some devices are Bluetooth enabled or use infrared technology so data can be synced with your PC or smartphone. Results can be emailed to the physician. Some models have USB ports to load directly into a computer.

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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