Friday, November 12, 2010

Getting Started With Glucose Monitoring

If you are reading this, you have probably recently been introduced to having to monitor your blood glucose levels on a daily basis. Depending on what your doctor suggests, you may have to test your blood more frequently, or infrequently, but most diabetics have to test at least once a day.

Most blood glucose monitors are fundamentally similar. Typically the test is performed by piercing the skin (usually on the finger) to produce a droplet of blood. The blood is then applied to a disposable strip, which is then inserted into the actual glucose monitor to measure the glucose levels.

Your doctor will likely have told you what your ideal blood glucose levels are and some tips to maintain it. That's where the importance of your glucose monitor comes in.

Why blood glucose monitoring is important

Monitoring your blood glucose level is important for two main reasons. Living with diabetes can be a stressful and complicated experience often initially compounded by anxiety and frustration. However, once a routine is established and the diabetic learns how different foods, different activities and other aspects of their life affect their blood sugar level, it becomes much more manageable and requires little more than second nature mental checks and consistent daily routines. That is the first reason why monitoring your blood is so important. Once you get a grasp on how your lifestyle affects the results of the glucose monitor, you can begin making intelligent and responsible decisions on how to make your life less impacted by diabetes and ultimately spend less time worrying about it. The second reason why monitoring your blood glucose level is important is that you can check your blood sugar level at virtually any time if you are worried or feel a bit off. It is also important for quickly detecting unexpected rises and falls in your blood glucose level.

Glucose monitoring technologies

Recently a variety of technological advances have made blood glucose monitoring a much less unpleasant and efficient experience for diabetics. New glucose monitors allow less sensitive areas to be pierced such as the palm or forearm. There have also been developments in convenience as well that allow for glucose monitors that allow the loading or more than one strip at a time as well as monitors that let you download the results into the computer for easier management and accessibility.

Continuous glucose monitors have the ability to report blood sugar level every few minutes but usually require direct access to the blood stream using either a transplanted mechanism under the skin or fingertip monitors. This is an unpleasant concept for most people, but offers the obvious advantage of being able to report accurate data continuously. These systems are not flawless however, and have received criticism for having to be calibrated via manual finger prick several times a day and also for having slightly lagged results. Continuous glucose monitors are usually not automatically covered by insurance.

Because of the unpleasant nature of these invasive methods for continuous glucose monitoring, new technologies are being developed to provide ways to show continual monitoring of glucose levels without needing direct and constant access to blood.

Learning to use your glucose monitor

If you have not been taught to use your glucose monitor in person, you should. If for whatever reason that is not an option, the general process should be as follows. Before you test your blood glucose level for the first time, read the included documentation that came with your blood glucose monitor and the testing strips. Do not discard the documentation until you are no longer using the meter.

Step 1: Wash your hands with soap and dry well.
Step 2: Prick the fingertip. If it is too painful, you can use the side of your fingertip.
Step 3: Gently press the finger until a small droplet appears. Make sure the blood is applied to the appropriate area of the test strip.
Step 4: Insert the test trip into your glucose monitor.
Step 5: Record the results in the same place each time so that you can see how your diet and lifestyle affect your blood sugar level.

Always make sure your glucose monitor is clean. Some glucose meters will not work properly if they are not regularly cleaned. Also read the documentation to find whether or not the glucose monitor needs to be used at a certain temperature to function properly. Some monitors will also need to be regularly calibrated to remain accurate. Calibration instructions will be included with your monitor if it is required.

Take your glucose monitor with you when you see your doctor. Not only will he or she be able to watch you while you test yourself, but you can also compare the results of your test with the results of their tests to make sure your testing is accurate.

How much glucose meters cost

Not all glucose meters are born equal. Their prices range from $10 to $200. Cheaper glucose monitors will perform their primary function. All glucose monitors are reviewed by the FDA so as far as I know, they all at least work. The more expensive glucose meters will include more features, support, show plasma glucose conversion, and are probably more durable. The really cheap ones can be quite flimsy. It is also not difficult to get a free glucose monitor. They won't be as fancy as the expensive ones, but they'll work. Visit for more information on free glucose monitors.

Not all test strips work with all meters. When assessing the cost of new glucose monitors, also consider the cost of the test strips. Some inexpensive meters use expensive strips, which can really add up if you are testing multiple times a day. Third party strips are available at typically cheaper prices, but make sure they are compatible with your monitor before purchasing them.