Which blood glucose monitor is best?
Managing a diabetes diagnosis can be time-consuming and stressful. One of the most important steps — monitoring your glucose levels — is a defining factor in your ongoing treatment plans. These days, glucose monitoring has become more sophisticated, with more options available to those with the condition.
Blood glucose monitors (or blood glucose meters) provide a snapshot of your blood glucose levels at that moment. Continuous glucose monitors, however, record continuous readings of your glucose levels overtime during the day and throughout the night.
Blood glucose monitors
Blood glucose monitors are one of the most popular ways for diabetics to track their blood glucose levels. They require a lancet to get a drop of blood from the skin (usually the finger) and testing strips to display your blood glucose levels.
You can pick up a simple blood glucose monitor for as little as $10, or a more advanced model that can be well over $100.
For more information on the best glucose meters to buy, check out the full guide from Best Reviews.
Blood glucose monitor pros
Blood glucose monitors are very simple to use and many people with diabetes will already be very familiar with how they work, including reading the testing strips.
Since these types of monitors read your blood glucose levels (as opposed to the interstitial levels read by continuous glucose monitors) they can read your glucose levels about 10 minutes ahead of CGMs.
Blood glucose monitor cons
BGMs can be bulky to transport around with you during the day or while traveling. There are multiple pieces to keep track of, including your lancets and testing strips.
For those who don’t like the sight of blood or the pricking sensation of a lancet, BGMs can be stressful and unpleasant to use. It’s also easy to get distracted if you’re busy and forget to take a moment to read your blood glucose levels using this method.
Furthermore, this method only provides a snapshot of your blood glucose levels at that moment, making it difficult to identify trends and patterns.
Best blood glucose monitors
This full testing kit includes lancets, testing strips and a glucose meter. It provides results in just 5 seconds and can store up to 300 readings at one time.
Sold by Amazon
This monitor uses a “smart light” to provide instant feedback on whether your reading sits within your target range. Connecting the monitor to a smartphone app via BlueTooth allows you to store and interpret all your readings.
Sold by Amazon
After drawing a drop of blood and inserting a test strip into a small meter, you can connect the meter right into the port of your iPhone to load the reading into an app and store all your historical results.
Sold by Amazon
Continuous blood glucose monitor
According to the National Institutes of Health, continuous glucose monitors use a sensor in the interstitial fluid just underneath the skin to read your glucose levels instead of monitoring the glucose levels in your blood. The sensor is inserted under the skin and transmits readings to a receiver (usually a handheld device or a smartphone app).
The receiver gives you a reading of your glucose levels, but it does this continuously throughout the day and night. Through the receiver, you can read your glucose levels and spikes over time to identify patterns and trends in the data.
Continuous blood glucose monitor pros
Many people with diabetes have only ever been able to get snapshot readings of their blood glucose levels. With continuous blood glucose monitors, you can view a continuous reading of your glucose levels. Overall, this means your doctor can more closely monitor spikes in glucose levels and the risk or frequency of low glucose (hypoglycemic) or high glucose (hyperglycemic) events. This can enable your doctor to tailor a vastly more personalized approach to your medication and your management of the disease.
Continuous glucose monitors can lower the frequency of hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic events. With CGMs, you don’t have to wait to take a measurement or start to feel symptoms to know your blood sugar level is out of target range. Many CGMs come with alarms that can preemptively alert you so you can get ahead of the issue.
All continuous monitors previously needed to be inserted under the skin by a doctor. Newer versions of CGMs are much easier to insert by yourself at home. They can also be connected to smartphones so that data can easily be stored and interpreted.
By using smartphone apps, people who care for those with diabetes can also keep a close eye on their glucose levels. A good example of this is parents who can use the smartphone app to keep track of their child’s glucose levels while they’re out at school.
Continuous blood glucose monitor cons
While continuous glucose monitors have many advantages, it’s still recommended to regularly use a blood glucose monitor regularly to ensure your readings remain accurate.
Continuous monitors also need the sensor under the skin to be replaced very frequently. Some require changing as frequently as every three days. Others can last up to 14 days.
CGMs are also far more expensive than blood glucose monitors. It’s possible that Medicaid or your health insurance will not cover a CGM, which can make it a significant medical expense for the household in comparison to a blood glucose monitor.
Best continuous blood glucose monitors
Continuous glucose monitors are not available in retail stores or over the counter at the pharmacy. A prescription from your doctor is required to purchase a CGM. Your doctor is best qualified to determine which type and brand of CGM is right for you, should it become part of your treatment plan.
Should you get a blood glucose monitor or a continuous glucose monitor?
In general, continuous glucose monitoring is prescribed for people who require very frequent blood monitoring and very careful medication dosages to manage their diabetes — usually those with Type 1 diabetes. For example, if you frequently struggle with hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic episodes, your doctor may prescribe a CGM. If these circumstances don’t apply to you, a blood glucose monitor may remain a more cost-effective solution, with a manageable amount of self-care required.
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Lauren Farrell writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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