(Blood Glucose Monitors)
Health care providers agree that blood glucose monitors
offer substantial benefits to users that other methods do not begin to approach.
Although urine testing is important for checking things like ketones, urine
testing for glucose is no longer considered to be a reliable method for
So monitors are your best choice for top-notch diabetes
care. To help you in your hunt to find the best one for you, here are a few
things to look for:
Expense. The cost of a blood glucose monitor and diabetes care
supplies is often covered by health insurance. But don't just assume your
insurance will reimburse you. Get approval from your insurance company
before you buy. Some insurance companies and/or
health care systems have special arrangements for certain monitors or systems.
If you have an established health care team, you should discuss choices and cost
before you buy.
You can usually find a deal on monitor trade-ins with
rebates and special purchase offers. Check with your doctor and diabetes
educator. Keep an eye on ads and compare prices before you buy.
In addition to the cost of a monitor, check the cost of
testing supplies that you will need for that monitor. Over time, the price of
test strips or sensors, control solutions, and other supplies will prove much
more costly than the monitor itself. These added costs may influence your
decision more than the cost of the monitor. You should always check with your
insurance company before buying. Some insurers will only pay for certain strips.
If the strips are not covered, you'll need to assess whether the costs
associated with a given meter are prohibitive. You should also discuss with
health care professionals how many times you should check your blood each day
and what your budget can cover. Although you do not need a prescription to
purchase strips, you may need one to get insurance reimbursement (co-pay).
Ease of use. Some monitors are easier to use than others. Some
require a smaller drop of blood than others. Some require fewer steps to
operate, and some take less time than others. If possible, talk with others who
use monitors before you make your purchase to find out the pluses and minuses of
various models. Remember that most monitor manufacturers have toll-free numbers
for customer questions. Your health care team may be familiar with several
different types, so check with them. Also, make sure your doctor will be able to
work with the machine you choose. If you buy a monitor your doctor or diabetes
educator is unfamiliar with or does not recommend, you may wind up not using it
to its maximum potential.
Accuracy. All monitors currently on the market have a fairly
high degree of accuracy if used properly. The monitor may become less accurate
over time, so it is important to test your glucose monitor to ensure it is
providing an accurate reading. Test monitor accuracy at least once a month (or
according to manufacturer's instructions), or anytime you suspect a problem?for
example, when strips are stored in unusual conditions during travel.
One way to test your monitor's accuracy is to check your
blood glucose on your meter at the same time you are having blood drawn from
your vein at your next doctor visit. The two samples should be taken within a
minute or two of each other to get the most accurate comparison.
Blood glucose levels measured by a meter do use capillary
blood directly from fingersticks. In contrast, blood glucose drawn from a vein
by your doctor is sent to a laboratory, which spins blood cells out of the
sample, leaving only plasma. Glucose is more concentrated in blood plasma than
whole blood?roughly 15 percent higher. But virtually all new monitors and test
strips are calibrated to yield a plasma glucose value, so these different
methods shouldn't influence the results.
Check your box of strips to see if they give a plasma
reading. Assuming they do, readings from these strips and monitors should
correspond closely (within 15 percent) to lab readings taken at the same time.
If you are not sure how to interpret the readings, check with your doctor or
If the readings go beyond this margin, something is
wrong. Poor readings can occur if your glucose monitor is dirty, old, or stored
at extremes of temperature or humidity; if strips are outdated; or if there is a
problem in your testing technique. Also, your monitor may not be calibrated to
the lot of strips you are using. Be sure you know how and when to calibrate or
code your particular model.
Cleaning and maintenance. No monitor is indestructible; each
kind needs proper care. However, some need more cleaning and maintenance than
others, another option to consider. Once you do buy a monitor, follow the
manufacturer's instructions on the proper care for your monitor. Make sure
training on the equipment is available nearby. Training that you can't take
advantage of is of no practical use to you.
Portability. All of today's monitors are lightweight and run on
batteries, so they are all extremely portable.
Test time. All the monitors provide fast results, usually in a
minute or less. Some of the newer meters even give blood glucose results in five
seconds. So this probably isn't going to be a major issue in your buying
decision. If it is, however, compare the speeds of different monitors.
Audio monitors. If you have a severe visual impairment, you can
still do your own blood glucose monitoring. There are several blood glucose
monitors on the market that give verbal instructions to guide a person through
the entire testing procedure and give verbal test results.
In the "Aids for People Who Are Visually or Physically
Impaired" section of this guide, you will find a few "talking" products that
announce, audibly, the results calculated by certain monitors. Units that
"speak" Spanish and other languages are included.
Because technique is important in getting accurate
results, you should work through the procedures for several different models, to
find one that's easy and comfortable for you to use.
Test site. Alternative test site or forearm capillary blood
glucose monitoring recently has been touted as a less painful means of testing
blood glucose than traditional fingerstick methods. Studies have shown good
correlation between fingerstick and forearm methods in the fasting person but
higher blood glucose values from fingerstick sites after eating. This may be due
to less vigorous blood flow in the forearm. Some studies have shown a difference
in readings taken from a finger versus the forearm when blood glucose is low.
Check with your doctor or educator. It may be safer to do a finger check if you
feel the symptoms of low blood glucose coming on. Some studies, however, have
shown good correlation between finger and forearm blood glucose levels when the
forearm is rubbed or tapped before blood is taken.
The decision to buy a blood glucose monitor is a good
one. The determination to use one regularly is even more important. So take the
time to find the monitor that best meets your needs, one that you'll put to
note on record keeping. Record keeping is almost as important as
blood glucose monitoring itself. Keep a written log of blood glucose test
results, even if your monitor has a memory, and take the log book to each
appointment. (Your health care team can provide these books.) Be sure to also
record other important factors such as eating, activity, and timing. Although
paper records are still quite adequate for many people, some prefer to use data
(From the American Diabetes Association)
Blood Glucose, Glucose
health education project is supported
by Chong's Health Care at http://www.cljhealth.com, one of the leading companies in the discovery of
medicines for diabetes.