Blood glucose meters, also known as blood glucose monitors or blood glucose meters, play a key role in managing diabetes. It tells you your current blood sugar level at a glance—important information that should guide you about food choices, how much to eat, your activity level, and if you’re taking insulin, your next dose.
Among other things, taking readings can give you and your healthcare provider a complete picture of how your body responds to certain foods, exercise, medications, and other factors. Regular monitoring can also help you stay as healthy as possible. In fact, regular blood sugar testing can greatly reduce the risk of long-term complications of diabetes.
Portable blood glucose monitors are available over the counter at pharmacies and other stores that sell medicines. They can also be purchased from online stores like Amazon and pharmacy websites. Some health care providers and diabetes educators also stock glucose meters.
Your healthcare provider or certified diabetes educator can help you determine which meter will best meet your needs (for example, one that monitors blood sugar continuously, or one that requires the least amount of blood) . Knowing as much as possible about how a blood glucose meter works and the various features and options to consider when purchasing can help you make an informed decision.
Basic Blood Glucose Meter
In simple terms, a blood glucose meter is a handheld instrument with a digital screen that works with disposable test strips that have been treated with chemicals that react with glucose. Some blood glucose meters come with a blood collection device—a device that uses a pogo pin to create tiny punctures in the skin from which a blood sample is taken. However, the lancing set and lancet can be purchased separately, and the size of the lancet can be adjusted for personal comfort.
To get a blood sugar measurement, people draw a blood sample (usually from the side of the fingertip) and carefully touch it to a test strip inserted into the device.The test strip absorbs the blood, and an electronic circuit detects the glucose on the test strip and displays it as a number on the screen, usually within a few seconds.
A step-by-step guide to using a blood glucose meter
Most meters are battery powered and have at least a minimal amount of memory for storing results. With very few exceptions, most people are also able to download and store the results on their computer.
But there are other features to consider, such as:
- Backlit screen for easier reading of results
- A port light that illuminates where the test strip is inserted
- Wireless bluetooth capability so results can be downloaded to a smartphone app where data can be stored
- Cloud storage capability
- USB rechargeable battery
- Ability to use 0.3 microliter blood samples (as small as possible; especially beneficial for testing children) to provide accurate results
- Voice technology, meaning the meter can “speak” the results out loud (a great feature for people with reduced vision)
- Alternative site testing, which means blood can be collected from parts of the body other than the fingertips, such as the forearm, palm, thigh, or calf, depending on the gauge’s specifications
- Measure blood pressure (and blood sugar)
- Measuring ketone bodies (and blood sugar)
American Diabetes Association 2020 Consumer Guide
- Freestyle Freedom Lite, Freestyle Lite, Freestyle Precision NEO (Abbot Diabetes Care)
- Advocate Redi-Code Plus Speaking Meter (Advocate)
- Jazz Wireless (Agamatrix)
- Presto, Presto Pro (Agamatrix)
- Select, Select Basic (Arcadia Group)
- Glucocard 01, Clucocard Expression, Glucocard Shine, Glucocard Shine Connex, Glucocard Shine XL, Glucocard Vital (Arkray)
- Contour Next, Contour Next EZ, Contour Next Link, Contour Next Link 2.4, Contour Next One (Ascensia Diabetes Care)
- CVS Health Advanced Blood Glucose Meter, CVS Health Bluetooth Blood Glucose Meter (CVS)
- Dario Smart Blood Glucose Meter (Dario Health)
- Diathrive Blood Glucose Meter (Diathrive)
- Fifty50 2.0, Fifty50 2.0 Sports (Fifty50 Medical)
- Fora D40D 2-in-1, Fora D40G 2-in-1, Fora G30A, Fora GD50, Fora MD, Fora Premium V10 & Fora Premium V10 BLE, Fora Premium V12 Voice, Fora Test n’ Go Advance Voice, Fora Test n ‘Go, Fora Test n’Go Voice, Fora V30 (Foracare)
- GHT Blood Glucose Meter (Genesis Health Technologies)
- Align Smart Blood Glucose Monitoring System (iHealth)
- Onetouch Ultra 2, Onetouch Ultramini, Onetouch Verio Blood Glucose Monitoring System, Onetouch Verio Flex, Onetouch Verio IQ (Lifescan)
- Livongo Meter (Livongo Health)
- Nova Max Link, Nova Max Plus (Nova Diabetes Care)
- Easymax Light, EasyMax NG/LTC, Easymax Voice, Easymax Voice 2nd Generation (Oak Health)
- FortisCare EM66, Fortis Care EMV3, Fortis Care MU, Fortis Care T1 (Oak Health)
- Embrace, Embrace Evo, Embrace Pro (Omnis Health)
- A drop of chromium (a drop)
- Prodigy Autocode, Prodigy iConnect, Prodigy Pocket. Prodigy Voice (Prodigy Diabetes Care)
- Accu-Chek Aviva Plus, Accu-Chek Compact Plus, Accu-Check Guide, Accu-Chek Nano (Roche)
- i Glucose (Smart Meter)
- Telcare BGM (Telcare)
- True Metrix, True Metrix Air, True Metrix Go, TrueTrack (Trividia Health)
- EasyGluco, Infinity, Verasens (US Diagnostics)
- Relion All-in-One, Relion Confirm, Relion Micro, Relion Premier Blu, Relion Premier Voice, Relion Prime (Walmart)
Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM)
CGMs work through tiny sensors inserted under the skin. Usually, it is placed on the abdomen or back of the upper arm. Every few minutes, sensors measure glucose levels in the fluid between the body’s cells.
This information is sent to the monitor via a wireless transmitter, or directly to a smartphone or tablet. Many also feature the ability to download measurements wirelessly to a computer or upload them to a care management system.
- Freestyle Libre System (Abbott Diabetes Care)
- G4 Platinum (Dexcom)
- G5 Mobile (Dexcom)
- G6 (Dexcon)
CGM-insulin pump combination
Some CGMs can be used as both continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps.The test results are sent wirelessly to the insulin pump, which uses the information to calculate the precise insulin bolus dose.
- MiniMed 530G System (Medtronic Diabetes)
- MiniMed 630G System (Medtronic Diabetes)
- MiniMed 670G System (Medtronic Diabetes)
- MiniMed Paradigm Rave (Medtronic Diabetes)
- T:slim X2 (tandem diabetes care)
- Omnipod (Dexcom)
Glucose meter for use with insulin pump
size. You’ll be carrying the meter with you all day, so think about how you will carry it. If you always carry a purse or backpack with you, any size meter will do. However, if you plan to keep the meter in your pocket or need to put it in a small suitcase, then you should buy the small meter.
screen size. A meter with a very small display might not be practical if you can’t read content up close. Buy a meter with a large backlit display.
memory. All blood glucose meters have memory, but a few offer the smallest database (10 to 125 tests). Most are recorded between 250 and 500 tests, with one meter (One Touch UltraSmart) capable of recording up to 3,000 tests.
computer compatibility. This is a feature that nearly all meters offer, along with the ability to email your test results to your healthcare provider. Note: Many do not offer software compatible with Apple computers.
cost. Meters can be purchased from pharmacies for $20 to $90; keep an eye out for pharmacy rebate offers. You may be able to get a meter for free from your healthcare provider.
insurance. Before buying a meter, check with your insurance company to see if the cost of the device (and test strips) will be covered: some insurance companies only offer coverage for specific meters.
Diabetes Supplies to Pack When You Leave Home
blood glucose meter accuracy
Testing of 17 commercially available blood glucose meter systems, including meters and test strips, found that their accuracy varied widely. A home blood glucose meter is considered clinically accurate if the results are within 20% of the laboratory test indication. For example, a blood glucose meter result at 100 mg/dL may be dropping to 80 mg/dL or rising to 120 mg/dL and still be considered accurate.
All home blood glucose meters measure whole blood, but newer versions automatically convert the results to plasma results. The instructions that come with the meter should tell you if the meter is calibrated for whole blood or plasma results; you can also find out by contacting the manufacturer’s customer service.
To measure the accuracy of your blood glucose meter, bring it with you when you have a lab glucose test and check your blood immediately afterwards. For best results, ask the laboratory to process your blood sample within 30 minutes.
In 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued updated recommendations for blood glucose meters, including specific guidance on accuracy.
Accuracy standards for blood glucose meters
According to FDA regulations, blood glucose meter values should be within 15% of the results obtained in the laboratory 95% of the time, and within 20% of the laboratory measurements 99% of the time.
Managing diabetes can be a complex job — especially if blood sugar monitoring is part of your protocol. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming due to the constant advancement of technology.what possible However, overwhelming are the many options in a blood glucose meter. This is where your healthcare provider or certified diabetes educator can help.
When faced with the task of choosing a blood glucose monitor, probably the most important thing to remember is that your first choice is not necessarily your last. If the first meter you used didn’t work for you, there are plenty of others to try.