Glucometers: The Basics

March 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Diabetes Supplies

glucose_meterIf you’re diabetic, or know someone who is, chances are that you’ve at least seen a glucometer. If you don’t know what one is, they’re a necessary tool used with diabetes to check blood sugar levels at certain times of day. They’re manufactured by many different companies and come in different styles and with different options. Glucometers test blood samples from patients to determine the level of blood sugar; this allows the diabetic to monitor their blood sugar level and administer sugar or insulin as needed.

A lancet is used to puncture the skin, usually on a finger tip, and obtain the blood sample. This sample is the placed on a test strip which is placed into the glucometer. The small computer inside the machine then calculates the level of sugar present in the sample and displays this as a number on the built in screen. Levels between 80 and 100 are normal, while above indicates the need for insulin and below indicates the need for a source of sugar. Normally, these sources of sugar should be small and contain refined sugars, like a piece of candy or chocolate.

With the aid of a glucometer, patients can avoid debilitating conditions like diabetic comas. A diabetic coma results from both extremes in blood sugar levels. These comas are frightening and can be life threatening, but with the aid of a glucometer, medication and a healthy diet, the risks of these can be greatly lowered.

All glucometers work on the same principle; a blood sample is analyzed for sugar levels. Glucometers differ mainly in size, placement of test strip and the location where blood samples can be obtained. Most have to have a sample from a finger tip, but this can be a painful experience, especially when the tests must be performed multiple times in a day. Newer glucometer models allow for samples taken from the inside of the forearm and other areas, though these glucometers tend to cost a little more than older styles.

Some glucometers require the test strip to be inserted after placing the sample on it, though these are older models and are becoming increasingly rare. Newer models require the test strip to be placed into the top of the glucometer, with the absorbent strip facing out, toward the patient. The sample is then touched to the top edge of the test strip, which wicks the sample into the strip itself and is then tested by the computer, and results displayed for the patient’s information.

Glucometers are battery powered for portability, though some have rechargeable batteries like a cell phone. Most work on simple AA batteries, though. Many diabetics carry a small, preloaded syringe of insulin with them and keep a glucometer for home use and one in their vehicle or on their person. A glucometer must be used with the correct test strips, or the sample will be analyzed improperly, or not at all. To determine which test strips are right for a certain glucometer, read the information in the User’s Manual that comes with all new glucometers. This will give specifics like brand of test strip recommended and style needed.


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