Go-go gadget glucose meter! Not always about the features

One of the good things about living with diabetes, if there is a good thing, is that we get to play with gadgets. As technology continues to grow in fascinating directions, so do blood glucose meters. A good meter is one of the most important tools for all people with diabetes. Every decision we make about what to eat, when to exercise, how much to basal, and how much to bolus is based on the information our meter gives us.

The dark ages of glucose meters

The first blood glucose meters were invented in the 1960's and were bulky, expensive, battery-operated meters. These were a big improvement over peeing on a strip, but they didn't make it to the market for individual purchase until the 1980's. Today's meters are leaps and bounds above those initial meters, and now with a small drop of blood and 5 seconds of your time, you know exactly where you stand. Innovations continue and companies such as iBGStar are promising meters that will allow users to upload information into an iPhone to share data. These changes allow us to better monitor and analyze our blood glucose trends and share that information with our doctor.

Meters that get the job done

Morgen Lamson, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes after a gestational pregnancy says she uses a 'cheap meter' because it gets the job done. "I like mine because the strips are a bargain, yet the meter and strips are made by a very pricey hospital grade meter maker. I bought a cute pink Reli-On Confirm at Wal-Mart. They are made by Arkray, who makes hospital grade monitors, all for under $10." Morgen adds that the Wal-Mart brand doesn't have all the bells & whistles, "but $36 for 100 strips is a bargain compared to name brand meters.

Joan Kelly has type 2 diabetes and uses the One Touch Ultra Mini meter (one of today's most popular brands), because there is no coding for test strips. She believes it's important to use a meter that you like and are comfortable with, and her only frustration with this brand is that she struggles to get enough blood onto the tiny strip.

Morgen tests 3-4 times a day, and says that the monitor has been a source of information and frustration. "You cannot expect the same results from the same food every time, so there are times I've loathed testing, and times that I've been elated that I tested. It has been helpful on the whole. I know that I've brought my average bs number down 100+ points, and I'm within 35 pts of my desired post-prandial numbers, and within 85 of my desired fasting numbers (I'm going for normal, safe to get pregnant numbers)." A meter that would show averages and patterns is something she'd looking for in her next purchase. Also, the ability to download information to a computer or smartphone would help her better manage her blood sugars. Joan agrees and hopes for a meter at all and it could be used electronically to submit to doctor's office and/or personal laptop.

Glucose meter tips from Morgen and Joan

With dozens of different meters on the market that vary in size, cost, speed, accuracy, and ability to store and transmit memory, choosing the right meter can feel overwhelming. Some important features to consider are the following: cost, accuracy, features, software, size, memory and comfort. Here are two tips from Morgen and Joan:

  1. "Either way, do your research and look at the true costs of ownership -- the cost of strips -- and not the cost of the meter. Some of the cheapest meters have the most expensive strips." -- Morgen
  2. Use one that you like and are comfortable with." -- Joan

The good thing about meters is that we have a variety of choices. Living with diabetes is a 27-7 job and anything that makes our lives a little easier is worthwhile. Ask around, do your research, and find the gadget that will make your life a little bit easier.

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About Amy Stockwell Mercer

Amy Stockwell Mercer is a freelance writer who has lived with type 1 diabetes for 26 years.

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