Diabetes: Choosing and Using Your Glucose Meter
The process of monitoring one's own blood glucose with a glucose meter is often referred to as self-monitoring of blood glucose or "SMBG." To test for glucose with a typical glucose meter, place a small sample of blood on a disposable "test strip" and place the strip in the meter. The test strips are coated with chemicals (glucose oxidase, dehydrogenase, or hexokinase) that combine with glucose in blood. The meter measures how much glucose is present. Meters do this in different ways. Some measure the amount of electricity that can pass through the sample. Others measure how much light reflects from it. The meter displays the glucose level as a number. Several new models can record and store a number of test results. Some models can connect to personal computers to store test results or print them out.
Choosing a Glucose Meter
Newer meters often have features that make them easier to use than older models. Some meters allow you to get blood from places other than your fingertip (alternative site testing). Some new models have automatic timing, error codes and signals, or barcode readers to help with calibration. Some meters have a large display screen or spoken instructions for people with visual impairments.
Using Your Glucose Meter
As a general rule, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that most patients with type 1 diabetes test glucose three or more times per day. Pregnant women taking insulin for gestational diabetes should test two times per day. ADA does not specify how often people with type 2 diabetes should test their glucose, but testing often helps control.
Often, self-monitoring plans direct you to test your blood sugar before meals, 2 hours after meals, at bedtime, at 3 a.m., and anytime you experience signs or symptoms. You should test more often when you change medications, when you have unusual stress or illness, or in other unusual circumstances.
Learning to Use Your Glucose Meter
Instructions for Using Glucose Meters
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.
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