Blood Glucose Monitoring for Diabetes

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Blood glucose monitoring is an essential part of diabetes management. People with Type 2 Diabetes, Type I Diabetes, and Gestational Diabetes use a device called a glucometer to help manage their blood sugar levels. Using a glucometer or “meter” can help improve blood sugar management, but there can also be some challenges in using a meter too. This article can be used as an overview of the advantages and basics of using a blood glucometer. Before using a glucometer it is important to consult your physician to understand your individual health goals.

What is a Glucometer?

A glucometer is a small machine that uses a test strip, a drop of blood, and a lancing device to test the amount of sugar in a person’s blood. Generally, people use the lancing device to lance the side of their finger and obtain a drop of blood that is placed onto the “blood strip.” The sugar in the drop of blood is analyzed as an electrical charge by the glucometer and reports back a blood sugar value. Someone who does not have diabetes usually has a blood sugar reading between 80 mg/dl and 120 mg/dl. Mg/dl stands for milligrams per deciliter and is a unit of measurement used to measure the amount of glucose in the blood. When the finger is lanced the blood drop is called capillary blood. There are now a number of meters that allow for alternative site testing. Some of the alternative sites that can be used to test a blood sugar are the forearm, upper arm, or calf. Meter companies recognize that patients are looking for meters that fit their lifestyle. Meters come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and have a lot of different features. You can find meters that have large screens, back lights, food diaries, replaceable test strip drums, internal exercise logs, and alternative site testing. Work with your healthcare team to find a meter that fits your lifestyle and your needs. It is also important to note that people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are also able to use continuous glucose monitors. Continuous glucose monitors are another way to get an approximate blood sugar estimation. A small electrode or sensor is inserted beneath the skin and is worn for 5 to 7 days when using a continuous glucose monitor or “CGM.” The CGM monitors interstitial glucose or glucose in between the bodies cells and then sends a glucose reading to a monitor that reports a blood sugar number. You can purchase a CGM that works with an insulin pump or you can purchase a CGM that works all by itself without an insulin pump.

Who Should Use a Glucometer?

Anyone with Type I Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes, LADA, Pre-Diabetes, or Gestational Diabetes can use a meter to monitor their blood sugar. The frequency and targeted blood sugar numbers that you want to obtain depend on a lot of personal health factors. Ask your healthcare team about how frequently you should be monitoring your blood sugar, your goals, and at what times of the day you should be testing your blood sugar.

For people with Type 2 Diabetes who are not using insulin a blood glucometer may not be an appropriate tool. Purchasing blood strips can also be expensive. Most healthcare insurances pay for blood glucometers and test strips, but it is important to know the specifics of your healthcare plan before purchasing a meter. For example, some health insurance providers pay for meters and strips on the pharmacy benefit while other insurance providers pay for meters and strips as a part of the medical plan. Medicare and Medicaid also pay for meters and strips. The American Diabetes Association has a wealth of online resources for people with Type 2 Diabetes.

What Are the Advantages of Using a Glucometer?

A blood meter can be used to identify trends in your blood sugar levels. Testing blood sugar before and after meals can allow someone with diabetes to better understand the impact that different types of food have on their blood sugars. For example, a lot of people who have diabetes have found that pizza can have an impact on their blood sugar 4 to 6 hours after eating. You can use a blood meter to track and analyze the impact of food several hours after eating. Depending on your diabetes management regimen it is also recommended to monitor blood sugar before and after exercise, in the morning upon waking up and in the evening before bed. Athletes with diabetes often test their blood sugar using a meter before, during, and after exercise. There are several professional athletes with Type I Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes and they rely on having accurate blood sugar numbers so they can perform to the best of their ability.

Challenges Using a Glucometer

Overall, using a meter is a best practice and standard of care in the majority of diabetes management regimens, and most people don’t mind using a meter. Be aware that you will want to have a case to carry your meter in. You will also want to carry extra blood strips and lancets to use in your meter. Depending on your insurance it can be expensive to have to replace your meter if you lose it. You also want to make sure you wash thoroughly wash and dry your hands before using a blood sugar meter. If you happen to have some residual sugar, food, hand sanitizer, or other substances on your fingers when you are testing, your blood sugar reading could be incorrect. Also be aware of the temperature and how you are storing your meter. Try to avoid storing your meter in extreme cold or extreme heat if possible.

Resources to Learn More About Diabetes

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is a nonprofit whose mission is to create a world without Type I Diabetes. JDRF has resources for family members, friends, and for people living with Type I Diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association is a nonprofit whose mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives for all people who live with diabetes. The ADA provides access to several scholarly studies as well as to information on Type 2 Diabetes, Type I Diabetes, Pre-Diabetes, Gestational Diabetes, and LADA.

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