Monitoring Your Blood Glucose at Home
Choosing the right glucose meter and using it effectively can
help you manage your diabetes better.
Regular home monitoring
of blood glucose is essential for everyone with diabetes: It
can help keep blood glucose under control and
reduce the risk of many long-term complications. In addition,
by recording each day’s results (along with the time and
prior activities such as meals or exercise), problems can be
spotted as they develop, patterns in blood glucose fluctuations
can be identified, and problems can be fixed early on.
the blood glucose meters currently on the market require a drop
of blood from your finger or forearm; less invasive models
are being investigated. The following tips can help you choose
and maintain an accurate blood glucose meter.
How To Choose a
There are many types of blood glucose meters, so ask your
doctor or diabetes educator to recommend one that meets your
Before buying a meter, test it out to make sure you feel comfortable
using it. Also, find out how easy the meter is to maintain, clean,
Some meters are easier to read than others. Most
models display the results digitally. Audio meters, which read
the results aloud,
are available for people with vision problems.
Using Your Meter
Most errors in home monitoring result from poor testing
techniques, rather than from defective meters. To keep your meter
working order, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for
cleaning and maintenance. Make sure your test strips are fresh
(don’t use them after the expiration date, or if they’ve
changed color or have been open for a long time). Also, be sure
to recalibrate your meter when needed. Dirty meters, old test
strips, and improper calibration can all interfere with accuracy.
It’s a good idea to test your meter’s accuracy at
least once a month, or whenever you suspect a problem. Follow
the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
Your Health Care Professional
Bring your meter to each doctor’s
appointment and take a reading within 5 to 10 minutes of having
your blood drawn.
The meter results should vary by no more than 15% from the lab’s
measurement. Engaging in this practice will not only help to
ensure that your meter is working properly, it will also allow
your doctor to monitor your technique.
Blood glucose meters with
data-management systems can give a more detailed picture of your
blood glucose control than traditional
meters. These systems, which work with a personal digital assistant
(PDA), can enhance blood glucose control by electronically recording
blood glucose levels as well as information about meals and exercise.
Copying or downloading this data onto your doctor’s computer
and displaying it graphically can make it easier to understand
While a data-management feature is helpful,
it certainly is not essential; so before buying this type of
meter, make sure that
you really need it and understand how to use it. Also, check
to see if your model is compatible with your doctor’s computer.
If your doctor doesn’t provide this service, your local
pharmacy may be able to give you a printout of your data so you
can review it with your doctor.
On the Horizon
Efforts are under way to develop less invasive
blood glucose meters. For example, diabetes experts say that
of a device that continuously measures blood glucose levels—rather
than at specific points in time—will be extremely helpful.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved one
such monitoring system, but it requires the insertion of a sensor
just under the skin and does not provide immediate feedback to
the person with diabetes. Instead, the person’s doctor
downloads the data every one to three days. Another device displays
blood glucose levels in real time, but the device lasts only
Eventually, researchers hope to develop a blood glucose
meter that can provide continuous blood glucose readings directly
the bloodstream; however, such a device would require major
surgery to implant it.