Diabetic glucose monitors are used by people with the condition diabetes to keep track of their current blood sugar levels, which is an important part of managing the condition and making sure it does not lead to the worst potential side effects. There are different types of monitoring devices which exist for checking a person’s sugar levels and they are all designed to be compact, mobile and convenient to use at home or elsewhere.
Some monitors check the current glucose level in the blood specifically, while others check the sugar levels in different areas of the body and can provide a longer-term picture. The main goal of such devices is to provide an easy and accurate way of tracking how well a patient is treating their diabetes, or if adjustments to medication or diet are required.
Dr. Daniel Cichi
Our Health Care Team
"If you have diabetes, then having accurate and up-to-date information on your sugar levels is a vital part of managing the condition. There are different types of devices available to buy which allows patients to self-test their current sugar levels with ease at home or elsewhere. Different glucose monitors take readings on sugar levels in different ways and may require certain additional items to conduct a test. Your doctor can provide information on what type of monitoring device is most suitable for you in your circumstances. Make sure when selecting a diabetic glucose monitor to read the description and information leaflet carefully to confirm it’s suitable for you."
Diabetic Glucose Monitors summarised
Diabetic glucose monitors are known by numerous other names such as blood glucose monitors, blood sugar monitors, blood sugar testers and diabetes readers. Such devices are used by people who have diabetes in order to keep track of their current blood sugar level.
Diabetes is a condition which causes a person’s blood sugar level to become too high. People who have been diagnosed with diabetes can prevent their condition from causing serious symptoms by taking certain medications and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It is also important for people with diabetes to regularly keep track of what their current blood sugar level is, so that any necessary adjustments to treatment and/or lifestyle can be arranged. Therefore, blood glucose monitors are commonly used by diabetic patients to allow them to check that what they are doing day-to-day is keeping their condition in check.
How easy is it to use glucose testers?
Modern day glucose testers are designed to be small, mobile and easy to use. Which specific blood glucose tester you’ll find easiest to use will depend on personal preference. There are different design interfaces favoured by the different manufacturers.
For instance, some meters do require the use of test strips and lancets which are provided separately to the testing device used (some products combine these parts together for convenience). Whichever device you get for glucose testing, it will be designed so that patients can use them without much trouble. It’s important to identify what additional items you may require for completing the test with your device. Your product’s information leaflet and your doctor can provide guidance on what items need adding/replacing to conduct regular tests.
Types of glucose testers
It can be confusing to make sense of all the different types of glucose monitors, particularly if you are new to them. For instance, there are devices which work specifically for people who wear a pump to get their insulin delivery, while others are designed for people that don’t use a pump but receive injections instead.
One thing to note is that blood glucose monitoring is not the same as continuous glucose monitoring (CGM). Both types of testing check the patient’s current glucose/blood sugar level with sensors, but in different ways. A blood glucose meter uses a patient’s bloodstream for testing, whereas continuous glucose monitoring measures glucose in the interstitial fluid, which is a thin layer of fluid which surrounds the body’s cells. Therefore, with continuous glucose monitoring, the sensors used are placed into the body, but not into the bloodstream. There is also flash glucose monitoring, which is similar but not identical to how continuous glucose monitoring works.
Blood glucose testing
Blood glucose testing can be carried out at home using a blood glucose meter. This method of checking your sugar levels requires a blood test, which involves pricking your finger with a small needle called a lancet and applying a drop of blood to a test strip which is connected to the blood glucose meter.
Anyone who takes insulin should regularly test their blood sugar level to keep up to date with how they are dealing with their diabetes. How often you should take blood glucose tests depends on the type of diabetes you have and certain other factors such as what medication you are currently taking.
Continuous glucose monitoring
As mentioned earlier, a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device is different to a blood glucose testing device mainly in the fact the former does not test sugar levels in the blood. Instead, CGM devices monitor sugar levels by checking a fluid within the skin called interstitial fluid. Continuous glucose monitoring is generally considered less invasive than blood glucose testing devices which require a drop of blood. CGM devices can also work 24 hours a day (including when you are asleep) and can have alarms which warn when glucose levels are too high or too low.
Continuous glucose monitoring can provide a more detailed picture of how your sugar levels may be fluctuating throughout the day when compared to blood tests. However, the level of glucose in interstitial fluid reacts slower than the levels of glucose in the blood. Those who use CGM devices should be aware that there is usually a lag of about 10 minutes between rises/drops in glucose levels when compared with blood. People who use CGM devices are advised to use blood glucose testing devices as well, at least on an occasional basis.
Flash glucose monitoring (Freestyle Libre)
Abbott Freestyle Libre is a modern type of glucose monitor which has become popular among patients with diabetes. The way it works is referred to by some as flash glucose monitoring, and it can provide a lot more data from test results compared to blood glucose testing. It shares a lot of similarities with ‘traditional’ continuous glucose monitoring but there are differences including the advantage that Freestyle Libre is cheaper than CGM.
The Freestyle Libre is a small and round sensor device you can attach to your arm. The sensor is applied to the skin with a handheld applicator and it can last for 14 days before it needs replacing once applied. Rather than measuring your blood sugar levels, the device measures the amount of sugar in your interstitial fluid (the fluid under your skin). Freestyle Libre can be used by diabetes patients to see whether their sugar levels go up or down and how they change over time (including while asleep). Those that use this device should still use a device which tests blood sugar levels specifically from time to time.
Unlike with traditional continuous glucose monitors, Freestyle Libre does not come with an alarm for hypo or hyper warnings. Also, a CGM provides readings for your sugar levels which are always visible on the screen of your device’s receiver. With flash glucose monitoring, you use a reader to scan the sensor on your skin when you want to check your sugar levels and how it has changed recently. You may be able to use a smartphone app to scan the sensor and get your results.