What Is a Glucometer?
What Is a Glucometer?
The word “glucometer” is a common term for a blood glucose meter.1 However, the word glucometer actually refers to an early brand name blood glucose meter. The term, “glucometer” continues to be used by some as a generic term. The more accurate term for these devices is a blood glucose meter. The act of checking one’s glucose levels is referred to as self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG)1 or simply blood glucose monitoring.2 A blood glucose meter is a medical device that measures the level of glucose in one’s blood at points in time when the user chooses to check their glucose. Think of this as getting snap shots in time. It does not continuously monitor glucose levels, like a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). A CGM is more like seeing a video report of glucose levels.
Blood glucose meters and the related supplies (a lancing device to get a blood sample and a strip on which to place the blood) have been available since the late 1970s.2 Blood glucose monitoring replaced urine checking and revolutionized the diabetes self-care.2 Over these forty plus years blood glucose meters have gotten smaller, doing the checks has become faster (now in seconds), and much less blood is required for the checks. The process of using a blood glucose meter is straightforward: the user obtains a very small drop of blood by pricking the skin typically on the sides of a finger with a lancet and places the drop on a strip. The strip is placed in the meter which reads the blood sample and provides the blood glucose level.3
Today, there are many blood glucose meters available. The blood glucose meter you choose to use may be based on your preference and needs, or those recommended by your diabetes care providers or recommended and covered by your health plan. Make sure you choose and use a monitoring system that meets accuracy standards and that you always use strips that are unexpired.1 Most health plans, including Medicare,4 cover the cost of a certain amount of blood glucose monitoring supplies per month or quarter. Check with your health plan to determine what and how much of your supplies are covered and how to purchase these at the lowest cost.
Many people with diabetes today are encouraged by their diabetes care providers to check their glucose levels with a blood glucose meter. How frequently you check will likely be based on the type of diabetes you have and the medications you take to manage it and whether any of your medications can cause low blood glucose. For people who take insulin and do SMBG, the American Diabetes Association recommends that people check based on the type of insulin you use and when you take it.1 This may include checking fasting (when you wake up and before you eat), prior to meals and snacks, at bedtime, prior to exercise, when low blood glucose is suspected, after treating a low blood glucose and prior to driving or performing other critical tasks.1
Over the past decade there have been technological advancements in glucose monitoring which has led to the availability of so-called continuous glucose monitors, or CGMs.1 Today’s CGMs are smaller and increasingly more accurate. They are either a stand-alone device or integrated with a smart insulin pen or an insulin pump.1 At present the CGMs cleared for use by FDA are typically comprised of a sensor, transmitter, and receiver. The sensor, placed under the skin with an inserter device, is replaced every 10 or 14 days.5,6 The sensor measures glucose readings throughout the day and night. The transmitter wirelessly sends the glucose information to the receiver every 5 minutes. The receiver displays the information. The receiver can also send warnings if glucose levels are too high or too low and display trend information. The person using a CGM may use the company provided receiver or view their data on a smartphone.
Regardless of whether the person with diabetes uses blood glucose monitoring or continuous glucose monitoring, it is critical that they work with diabetes care providers that regularly review glucose data to help them optimally manage their diabetes.1
1: American Diabetes Association. 7. Diabetes technology: standards of medical care in diabetes - 2021. Diabetes Care.202;44(suppl 1):S85-S99.
2: Weinstock RS, Aleppo G, Bailey TS, et al. The Role of Blood Glucose Monitoring in Diabetes Management. American Diabetes Association. 2020. https://professional.diabetes.org/sites/professional.diabetes.org/files/media/ada_bgm_compendium_fin_rev-web.pdf. Accessed July 2, 2020.
3: CDC. Monitoring Your Blood Sugar. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/managing/managing-blood-sugar/bloodglucosemonitoring.html. Accessed July 5, 2021.
4: Medicare.gov. Blood sugar monitors. https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/blood-sugar-monitors. Accessed July 2, 2021.
5: Dexcom reference
6: Abbott. https://abbott.mediaroom.com/2020-06-15-Abbotts-FreeStyle-R-Libre-2-iCGM-Cleared-in-U-S-for-Adults-and-Children-with-Diabetes-Achieving-Highest-Level-of-Accuracy-and-Performance-Standards. Accessed July 6, 2021.
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