Type 2 Diabetes Guide

Basic Information for Glucometers - How to Choose a Monitor

A glucometer (or glucose meter) is a medical device used to measure the concentration of glucose in the blood. It helps diabetics to track their blood glucose levels in a home setting, so that they can monitor themselves regularly without going to see the doctor. It is useful to know some before choosing one.

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How Does a Glucometer Work?

There are several types of glucose meters on the market but all perform the same function. They report the approximate level of blood sugar by sampling a small drop of blood on specially coated paper. By pricking the finger tip (or, in some cases, other specific parts of the body), a droplet can be collected on a disposable test strip which the meter can then analyze and display the results. Diabetics use glucometers to monitor their blood sugar, so that they can take preventive steps to avoid both (high blood sugar) or (low blood sugar).

Sometimes it's mistakenly believed that people with do not need to use a glucometer, so long as they're eating healthy and exercising - but that's just not true. Every diabetic needs to monitor their for proper self-care.

Choosing a Glucometer

Here are the main features you should consider before selecting a unit:

  • Blood droplet: Older units require a larger droplet of blood (one that is 'about to drip'. Newer units are much more efficient at chemical analysis and require just a small dot.

  • Sample location: Check where the blood should be collected (i.e. fingertip, forearm, thigh, or toes). Traditionally, the fingertip is the sample site but some people find the use of a forearm or thigh can be less painful then the sensitive pads of the fingers.

  • Test Strips: These are coated with chemicals that react with glucose in the droplet of blood. Paper strips can only be used once. Select a unit that uses a test strip that's within your price range. Over the years, the main expense will be for the test strips while the initial cost of the monitor unit itself is quite reasonable (some companies will even give the monitor away for free, when you purchase their test strips).

  • Multiple Test Strips: Some glucometers come with a multi-strip disc, where several test strips are loaded at once. The disc can then be rotated and used for several readings before having to reload. This can be a convenient feature for people who find it difficult or annoying to fumble with individual test strips.

  • Code: Due to the variation in batches, some glucometer models require a code to be typed in whenever a new batch of test strips is used. The code must be entered correctly or the unit may give false readings. This isn't as common in modern glucometers.

  • Size: Units vary widely in size. Size does not affect accuracy, so select one that is convenient for you.

  • Display: Look for a unit with a clear display. Backlighting of the LCD makes for easier reading. Some units will also verbally tell you the blood glucose reading, which is a handy feature for people who may have vision problems.

  • Memory: Units that have a programmable clock and memory function can help track blood sugar readings over time. The more memory it has, the easier it will be to notice trends in your levels. Some units can even be connected to a computer so the results can be recorded in a spreadsheet. Regardless of whether or not your unit has memory, it's recommended that you to keep track of them. This can help you spot patterns.

    Note that there are some units that will not allow you to clear your readings from the unit.

This basic information for glucometers will hopefully give you a starting point to help you decide on a unit that's right for you. Ask if your doctor has samples that you may view or try. Your doctor can also advise you how often you need to check your blood glucose as a important part of your plan. All glucose meters basically report the same information (although they have different features), so select one that will fit within your budget and your preferences.



The information on this website is based on our own research and personal experience, and is not a substitute for medical advice. Questions about your health and individual situation should be directed to your doctor.