What You Need to Know Before Buying a Glucose Monitor

Varying blood sugar levels troubling you? Need to better manage your diabetes?

What you need is a Glucose Monitor lying handy at home that will measure and display the amount of sugar (glucose) in your blood. This will help you track fluctuations and keep a close watch on the state of your health.

What It Is

Blood Glucose Monitors or Glucometers are medical devices that allow you to measure the glucose levels in your blood. These devices come equipped with three parts:

  • A lancet or special needle to prick your fingertip and draw the required amount of blood.
  • Disposable test strips with chemicals that mix with blood drawn from your body.
  • A meter that will read the test strip, calculate and display your blood sugar readings.

Female hand testing for high blood sugar on white background

How It Works

To use most blood glucose meters, you will begin by inserting a test strip into the device. Next, you need to use the lancet to prick a clean fingertip and draw a drop of blood. Now you would need to gently touch the test strip to the blood and allow the device to conduct the test. The blood glucose reading will be displayed on the screen.

The Flipside

Even before we go into details of features of a good glucose monitor, let’s talk about the flipside of using such a device at home.

First up, the accuracy of the readings of home glucose monitors is debatable. Concerns have been raised over time about the results not being completely precise. So keep in mind that such a device may not give you lab-test type of exactness, but should display results within 10% error range. That is, nevertheless, accurate enough for you to keep track of fluctuations and the state of your health.

The other thing to be kept in mind is that glucose monitors do not merely constitute a one-time expense. You would need to purchase fresh supplies of lancets and strips as and when required.

Also, external conditions like temperature, humidity, consumption of medications could alter the results. You should consult with your doctor about the limitations of a glucometer if you plan to start using one at home.

Features to Look Out For

If you’re still with us, you’ve decided that despite the apparent drawbacks, you would like to know more about purchasing your very own glucose monitor. To enable you to make an informed decision about which of the hundreds of monitors in the market you should buy, we have put together an exhaustive list of features to look out for in a glucose monitor.

Cost: Glucose monitors come in a wide range of prices, the key difference between models being the features available. If you’re not looking to spend too much, you need to know which features are absolutely essential, and which ones you can do without.

Ease-of-Use: It is imperative that the device you pick up is easy to operate. Can you navigate easily enough? Are the buttons easy to press? Is the display large and clear? Are the meter and the strips easy to hold and use?

Memory: The memory storage power of the device is indicated by the number of readings it is capable of storing away. Furthermore, does it have the ability to calculate basis old readings and present you with an average of 7, 14 or 30 days?

Volume of Blood: Most glucose monitors mention the amount of blood they would require to present an accurate reading. Older devices used to require more blood, whereas latest models operate well with smaller drops. Is the device you’re looking at capable of functioning effectively with minimum amount of blood drawn?

Testing Time: This is the amount of time it takes for the device to conduct its measurements and display the results. It varies from model to model. Of course, devices with minimum testing time are favourable, especially if you’re likely to be using the monitor on the go or multiple times in the day.

Size: The dimensions and weight of the monitor, with and without batteries, will indicate whether it is an easily portable device. You would want something that is convenient to carry around to work, in case of travel etc.

Calibration: Some devices require calibration and coding to ensure accurate readings. You would need to enter a code that comes with a set of strips into the meter to calibrate the device to that batch of strips. If this is done incorrectly, the readings can be far from accurate. Is this acceptable to you or do you want to avoid the hassle and the time it takes to get the hang of such a device?

Alternative Site Testing: This is certainly a useful feature to have. It allows for blood to be drawn from not just the finger, but other parts of the body as well, that may be less sensitive and hence, less painful. However, keep in mind that readings of blood drawn from the finger are said to be more accurate than that drawn from other parts. This feature would be of use to you if you need to use the monitor very frequently.

Warranty: This feature, it goes without saying, is essential for durability. Warranty may vary from none to one year to lifetime. Ensure you get a device that can be easily serviced in case the need arises.

Additional Features:

Apart from these basic features, devices these days may come with smart alerts. That is, the ability to warn you in case something is not quite right. These alerts may be for inadequate quantity of blood on the strip or approaching expiry of the strips etc.

Markers and flags allow you to make a small note beside your reading, in case you want to specify that a particular reading was taken before or after a meal.

Another additional feature that may be useful to you, depending on your expected usage of the monitor, is data transfer. Some recent devices allow you to connect your glucose monitor to a computer and take a backup of your readings. This allows for you to keep a long-term record.

It’s time to get your own glucose monitor home now! We hope that this guide will prove useful in helping you make the right choice.

You can tell us at Conzumr.com which monitor you finally selected or which one you’re currently using in the comments below. We look forward to hearing from you.

Article by Piyushi Dhir

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