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Over-The-Counter Diabetes Glucose Monitors

Using a meter to self-test blood sugar levels is one way that people who have diabetes manage their illness. The test can be done at home using an electronic over-the-counter diabetes glucose meter. It helps patients measure their sugar level throughout the day.

Why should you test your blood sugar levels?

By self-testing and monitoring sugar levels, you receive helpful information to manage your diabetes effectively. Self-monitoring can help you with the following determine if your sugar levels are high or low. It can also help you assess if you are reaching treatment goals your health care provider has set. Glucose monitors can also help you see what effects your diabetes medications are having on your sugar levels.

How do you perform a test with a traditional glucose meter?

Always carefully read and follow manufacturer's instructions for use. Generally speaking, the procedure for conducting a self-test typically is as follows:

  • Use a lancet to prick your finger and draw a drop of blood.
  • Place the droplet onto the test strip, which you should have already inserted into the meter.
  • Wait for reading. In the United States, this gets displayed as milligrams of sugar per deciliter of blood (mg/dl).
How does a continuous glucose device work?

As an alternative to traditional meters that require skin pricks, blood droplets, and test strips, people are choosing a continuous glucose monitor, or CGM. For a CGM to function, a tiny catheter pierces the skin. By monitoring the fluid that encompasses the fat cells under the person's skin, the device can provide a blood glucose reading every five minutes. Most CGMs have either a vibratory alarm, an auditory one, or a combination to inform the user of low or high sugar levels. For Apple Watch users, the sensor data from the device can also be synched with the watch.

Can you only test from fingers?

Meters are on the market which allows for alternative site testing, so testing on your fingers isn't a must. Such areas would include the calf, palm, thigh, forearm, or upper arm. Medical professionals advise that you do not test from alternative sampling sites during times in which your blood sugar level could be changing quickly. For accurate results, it is strongly suggested that you not perform AST and instead check levels only with a drop taken from the fingertip if any of the following cases are true:

  • You are stressed.
  • You just took insulin.
  • You are sick.
  • You have just finished a meal or snack.
  • You believe that your glucose levels might be low.
  • You have just completed an exercise activity.
  • You usually are unaware of hypoglycemic symptoms.
How do you choose a meter?

No two glucose meters are quite the same. There are a significant number of device features which you should consider:

  • Spoken results or instructions
  • Large display
  • Accuracy
  • Cost of purchasing test strips
  • The required amount of blood for a test
  • Meter price
  • Data storage
  • Speed
  • Meter size
  • Ease-of-use
  • Monitor-to-computer transmission capabilities
  • Available languages, such as English, Spanish, or French
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