Glucose Meters (Glucose Monitors)
How to Measure Blood Sugar
A glucose meter or monitor is a machine
that measures how much glucose (sugar) is in the blood. Typically, a specially
coated strip containing a sample of blood is inserted in the machine,
which then measures the level of glucose in the blood sample and shows
the result on a digital display. Some glucose meters/monitors have a memory
component that can store results from multiple tests.
Monitor Blood Glucose and Maintain Glycemic
This glucose-measuring equipment is mainly
used by diabetics to monitor glucose levels which need to be kept in balance
in order to reduce the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia
(high blood sugar). But a glucose meter/monitor home health test kit can
help you maintain good glycemic control through diet, exercise, blood
monitoring and medication.
Helpful Tips About Your Glucose Meter/Monitor
Diabetes care should be designed for each
individual patient. Some patients may need to test (monitor) blood glucose
more often than others do. How often you use your glucose meter should
be based on the recommendation of your diabetes educator or doctor. Self-monitoring
of blood glucose (SMBG) is recommended for all people with diabetes, but
especially for those who take insulin (type 1 diabetics).
Learning to Use Your Glucose Meter/Monitor
Not all glucose meters work the same way.
Since you need to know how to use your glucose meter and interpret its
results, you should get training from a diabetes educator. The educator
should watch you test your glucose to make sure you can use your meter
correctly. This training is better if it is part of an overall diabetes
Instructions for Using Glucose Meters/Monitors
The following are the general instructions
for using a glucose meter:
- Wash hands with soap and warm water
and dry completely or clean the area with alcohol and dry completely.
- Prick the fingertip with a lancet.
Hold the hand down and hold the finger until a small drop of blood appears;
catch the blood with the test strip.
- Follow the instructions for inserting
the test strip and using the SMBG meter.
Record the test result.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
requires that glucose meters and the strips used with them have instructions
for use. You should read carefully the instructions for both the meter
and its test strips. Meter instructions are found in the user manual.
Keep this manual to help you solve any problems that may arise. Many
meters use "error codes" when there is a problem with the
meter, the test strip, or the blood sample on the strip. You will need
the manual to interpret these error codes and fix the problem.
You can get information about your glucose
meter and test strips from several different sources. Your user manual
should include a toll free number in case you have questions or problems.
If you have a problem and can't get a response from this number, contact
your healthcare provider or a local emergency room for advice. Also, the
manufacturer of your glucose meter should have a website.
Important Features Of Glucose Meters/Monitors
There are several features of glucose meters
that you need to understand so you can use your meter and understand its
results. These features are often different for different meters. You
should understand the features of your own meter.
Glucose Meter Measurement Range
Most glucose meters are able to read glucose levels over a broad range
of values from as low as 0 to as high as 600 mg/dL. Since the range is
different among meters, interpret very high or low values carefully. Glucose
readings are not linear over their entire range. If you get an extremely
high or low reading from your meter, you should first confirm it with
another reading. You should also consider checking your meter's calibration.
Whole Blood Glucose vs. Plasma Glucose
Glucose levels in plasma (one of the components of blood) are generally
10-15% higher than glucose measurements in whole blood (and even more
after eating). This is important because home blood glucose meters measure
the glucose in whole blood while most lab tests measure the glucose in
plasma. There are many meters on the market now that give results as "plasma
equivalent". This allows patients to easily compare their glucose
measurements in a lab test and at home. Remember, this is just the way
that the measurement is presented to you. All portable blood glucose meters
measure the amount of glucose in whole blood. The meters that give "plasma
equivalent" readings have a built in algorithm that translates the
whole blood measurement to make it seem like the result that would be
obtained on a plasma sample. It is important for you and your healthcare
provider to know whether your meter gives its results as "whole blood
equivalent" or "plasma equivalent."
Glucose Meter Cleaning
Some glucose meters need regular cleaning to be accurate. Clean your meter
with soap and water, using only a dampened soft cloth to avoid damage
to sensitive parts. Do not use alcohol (unless recommended in the instructions),
cleansers with ammonia, glass cleaners, or abrasive cleaners. Some glucose
meters do not require regular cleaning but contain electronic alerts indicating
when you should clean them. Other meters can be cleaned only by the manufacturer.
Display Of High And Low Glucose Values
Part of learning how to operate a meter is understanding what the meter
results mean. Be sure you know how high and low glucose concentrations
are displayed on your meter.
Factors That Affect Glucose Meter Performance
The accuracy of your test results depends
partly on the quality of your meter and test strips and your training.
Other factors can also make a difference in the accuracy of your results.
Hematocrit is the amount of red blood cells in the blood. Patients with
higher hematocrit values will usually test lower for blood glucose than
patients with normal hematocrit. Patients with lower hematocrit values
will test higher. If you know that you have abnormal hematocrit values
you should discuss its possible effect on glucose testing (and HbA1C testing)
with your health care provider. Anemia and Sickle Cell Anemia are two
conditions that affect hematocrit values.
Many other substances may interfere with your testing process. These include
uric acid (a natural substance in the body that can be more concentrated
in some people with diabetes), glutathione (an "anti-oxidant"
also called "GSH"), and ascorbic acid (vitamin C). You should
check the package insert for each meter to find what substances might
affect its testing accuracy, and discuss your concerns with your health
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