Monitoring of blood glucose at home is now widely practiced. All experts in diabetes agree that home monitoring of glucose can help make management of diabetes a lot easier. However, there are a variety of home monitoring devices out on the market and choosing the right one is an overwhelming task for the average patient.
Unlike laboratory measurement of blood glucose, the home devices have a wide range of accuracy. In fact, not all home glucose monitoring systems are the same when it comes to accuracy. The FDA calls for all blood glucose monitors to produce results within 20% of a reference measurement. The newer generation of glucose monitoring systems are expected to generate results with only 10% difference. The American Diabetes Association has gone one step further and demanded that all blood glucose meters produce readings within 5% of reference level. All the glucose meters currently on the market do comply with FDA standards but they are not as accurate as laboratory machines.
The accuracy of blood glucose meters is directly linked to proper usage. Higher accuracy is obtained when monitoring systems are used appropriately. Therefore patient education on correct use of the monitors as well as proper evaluation of the results can have a big impact on diabetes management.
Some of the most frequent errors at home in the use of blood glucose monitors include:
- a soiled or contaminated meter
- use of expired test strips
- too little blood sample size
- and the failure to calibrate the machine prior to use
There are many glucose meters available and new models are constantly emerging in the market. The majority of newer machines are all calibrated with plasma glucose and thus the values obtained at home can be compared to the laboratory values. Like all electronic devices, glucose meters are mainly distinguished based on their features. These features include:
- the blood sample site
- duration of test time
- memory capability
- ability to download data
- alternate site testing
- and various software.
Other machines can also help record your medications, doses, and calorie intake as well as how much exercise you perform. Some of the latest devices even have voice prompts for the visually impaired users.
Selecting A Glucose Monitoring System
For the consumer, the following considerations are important when selecting a machine for home use:
- Does the machine work with small sample size? This will allow you to take less blood and thus have a less painful glucose testing experience. It may also permit alternate site testing.
- How long does the test time take? You would want a device that takes less than 10 seconds, which makes it more convenient to use.
- Is the machine portable? This features comes handy when you are on the go.
- How expensive are the related supplies such as glucose test strips? Remember these are often out of pocket expenses that can easily add up to a lot of money each year.
The latest glucose machines can also measure glucose in other fluids as well. There are also machines that continuously monitor blood sugars. Though it sounds fascinating, the continuous monitoring technology is still evolving and there is more to come. Therefore this method is not recommended for the home use quite yet. The majority of consumers can get their glucose meters at little or no cost. The long term expenses are from the purchase of test strips and related supplies.
Blood Sample Size
The size of blood sample needed for monitoring glucose level varies slightly depending on the model (from 0.3-10 microliter). The newer models require considerable less amount of blood. The smaller volumes of blood mean that you have to prick your self less often.
Cost of Test Strips
The cost of home blood glucose monitoring is not cheap. The cost of each glucose test strip can range from $0.3-$1.0. For those who need to check the blood sugars 2-5 times a day, the cost can add up.
For the future, things do look bright. There is an effort to develop a glucose monitoring system that contains an insulin pump and a cellular phone. These glucophones are in the evolutionary phase and currently sell for over $5,000 with monthly costs of $200 plus.
Before buying any blood glucose monitoring systems, it is always a great idea to read up on the device and speak to a healthcare professional. Eventually the type of glucose monitoring system you buy depends on your personal preferences and affordability.