Glucose meters are devices that allow an individual to effectively monitor their blood sugar levels throughout the day. The device uses blood that is often manually extracted by the user to verify their glucose levels. Once a blood sample is applied to the test strip, and inserted into the device, a chemical reaction occurs that sends an electric pulse to the meter. The meter then interprets your blood and sends out a digital reading. For a person suffering from diabetes, glucose levels that are too high or too low can cause serious issues so keeping your blood sugar at consistent levels is vital.
Choosing a Glucose Monitor
With so many glucose monitors on the market today some individuals can get confused about which one to use. Most manufacturers are happy to practically give you a monitor so that you’re forced to buy their test strips. Each manufacturer makes a different test strip, and they’re not interchangeable from one monitor to another. Some even make a different strip for each individual monitor type.
Because the meters are so cheap and the science is changing so rapidly, it’s a good idea to get a new glucose monitor every 1-2 years to make sure that you have the latest, state of the art model. The cost of most diabetic test strips are generally about the same from meter to meter, so cost shouldn’t play a big role in your decision.
Update: Walmart and Walgreens offer low cost diabetic supply alternatives that have gotten top reviews for quality and accuracy. The TRUE2Go by Nipro Diagnostics and ReliOn Confirm are priced under $10.00 with test strips that are 1/2 to 1/3 of the cost of most of the brand names on the market.
Selecting a blood glucose monitor is definitely based on personal preference. There are a variety of monitors on the market, from basic models with limited functionality to advanced devices that are like computers (memory storage, alerts, averaging, etc). Below, we’ve included a list things to consider before making a decision.
- Cost of the Monitor and Testing Strips – Most glucose monitors are relatively inexpensive compared to the yearly cost for the testing supplies that accompany them. Many times your choice may be based upon your health insurance and the brands they accept in their program. Some insurance companies have deals with certain brands. If your health insurance company does not cover your testing supplies there are lower priced generic testing strips on the market that can save you considerable cash. Make sure you verify the compatibility of these strips before you buy. Also make sure to avoid expired testing supplies.
- Ease of Use – Some glucose monitors are easier to use than others and have different methods for testing. Some individuals may prefer larger buttons and a larger viewing screen. Will you have to calibrate your meter for testing accuracy (coding your meter)? How much blood is required for testing? Are larger testing strips required (For less nimble users)? Some newer meters have testing strips that can be preloaded within the device and can eliminate the need to carry a separate supply of strips (See the Bayer Breeze 2). These are a few of the questions that should be answered before making a decision.
- Monitor features – Certain advanced features are available on today’s latest glucose monitors. Some individuals might like a smaller, compact design. Others may want features that offer alerts that remind them of their latest results and have the ability to be downloaded and sent to your physician. Some meters are even audible and can tell you when you need to test.
- Readings & Storage – In the past, a user would often need to log their information in a book or journal. Most modern meters are miniature computers with internal memories that allow for storage and sometimes even transmission of results. Your doctor may have software for a particular meter, so it’s always a good idea to check with them before making your decision.
- Support – Most glucose monitor manufacturers will include a user manual as well as a toll-free number that you can call for assistance with your device. You may also even be able to register your monitor to receive incentives and other exclusive benefits & offers.
Other Types of Glucose Monitors
Alternative Site Monitors are devices that allow blood samples to be taken from areas other than your fingertip (can be callused over time). Samples from “alternate” areas like your arm or thigh will often be less painful than your finger. The drawback is that they are not as accurate and do not perform will during times of dramatic increases & decreases.
Continuous Glucose Monitors utilize a sensor that can be inserted under skin to measure and transmit blood sugar levels to the user. It continuously monitors your blood, looking for dramatic increases or decreases and will sound an alarm if blood sugar level become too high or low.
Insulin Pumps are small electronic devices that you wear on your belt or in your pocket. They have a small flexible tube with a fine needle on the end. The needle is inserted under the skin of your abdomen and taped in place. The needles and tubing set are changed every few days. A carefully measured, continuous flow of a rapid-acting insulin is released into the tissue.
The insulin pump is designed to deliver a continuous amount of insulin, 24 hours a day according to a programmed plan unique to each pump wearer. A small amount of insulin is constantly delivered, this is called the basal rate. This is the amount of insulin needed to keep the blood sugar in the target range between meals and overnight. As seen on Webmd.com
Non-Invasive Blood Glucose Monitors
The FDA has approved one “minimally invasive” meter and one “non-invasive” glucose meter. Neither of these should replace standard glucose testing.
MiniMed Continuous Glucose Monitoring System. The MiniMed system consists of a small plastic catheter (very small tube) inserted just under the skin. The catheter collects small amounts of liquid that is passed through a “biosensor” to measure the amount of glucose present. For more information about the MiniMed, use the link below.
Mimimed Continuous Glucose Monitoring System (CGMS) – FDA Report
Cygnus GlucoWatch Biographer. GlucoWatch is worn on the arm like a wristwatch. It pulls tiny amounts of fluid from the skin and measures the glucose in the fluid without puncturing the skin. The device requires 3 hours to warm up after it is put on. After this, it can provide up to 3 glucose measurements per hour for 12 hours. Unlike the MiniMed device, the GlucoWatch displays results that can be read by the wearer, although like the MiniMed device, these readings are not meant to be used as replacements for fingerstick-based tests. For more information about GlucoWatch, use the link below.
Cygnus GlucoWatch Automatic Glucose Biographer – FDA Report
Leading Glucose Monitor Brands & Manufacturers
The diabetes blood glucose monitoring industry is dominated by a handful of competitors, making the industry difficult at best for newcomers to penetrate. Roche Diagnostics was the overall market leader in 2002, with a 34% share of the blood glucose meter market, and a 35% share of the blood glucose testing strip market. LifeScan, a Johnson and Johnson company, was second, benefiting from sales of the ONE TOUCH Ultra introduced in 2001. The Ultra isapproved for alternative site testing and is providing stiff competition for Roche’s Accu-Chek Compact, also approved for alternative site testing.Bayer and Abbott Laboratories’ Medisense are lesser, but important players in this market.
Abbot Laboratories – Located in Abbott Park, Illinois acquired Medisense® in 1996 and on April 6, 2004 completed the acquisition of TheraSense. The integration of the two companies will result in new products to help patients and caregivers better manage diabetes.
Bayer Corporation – Located in in Tarrytown, New York, manufacturers the Ascensia® line blood glucose monitors. The Ascensia® family of self-testing products helps people with diabetes to successfully manage their disease both at home and on the go. Ascensia brand blood glucose monitors make testing easier and less painful with products that offer alternate site testing and require smaller blood samples.
Becton Dickinson & Co. – Located in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, has developed a new meter, the BD Logic. In spite of the small amount of blood this meter uses, it is intended for fingerstick tesing only. It is plasma-blood calibrated.
LifeScan Inc. – a Johnson & Johnson company headquartered in Milpitas, California, markets several different blood glucose meters in the United States.
Accu-Chek Glucose Monitors – The Roche Group – based in Basel, Switzerland, which merged with Boehringer Mannheim Corporation in 1997, manufactures the Accu-Chek Blood Glucose Monitor.
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