Types of Blood Glucose Meters (Glucometers)

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2021.

Blood glucose meters are an important tool to monitor the level of sugar (glucose) in your blood. Your doctor will tell you how often to test your blood glucose levels at home, and want you to keep a record of the results. Your daily test results will help you and your doctor decide whether you need to change your diet or medicines to stay as healthy as possible.

These machines are called several names:1,2

  • Glucometer
  • Blood glucose monitor or meter
  • Blood sugar monitor or meter

Understanding the differences in blood glucose monitors

With such an important role to play in how you manage your diabetes, it is important to pick a blood glucose meter that fits your lifestyle, medical needs, and budget. Luckily, many different types of blood glucose meters are available.

Key features to consider when choosing a blood glucose meter include:1,2

  • Cost of monitor. The cost of a meter can vary greatly. If you have insurance, it may pay for only certain brands of meters and strips.
  • Cost of test strips. The cost of test strips is an important consideration in purchasing a glucometer. Even if you get a free monitor from your doctor or through a special offer, you will still have to regularly purchase test strips. This can be expensive, depending on your insurance and prices in your region.
  • Size and handling. The size of a meter is important because that affects how easily you can carry it in your pocket or purse. Size and weight can also make a meter easier or harder to use, depending on the size of your hands and fingers. Look at the total size of the unit, the size of the display, and the size of buttons or switches. Also be sure to find out if the unit requires you to insert individual strips or allows for an attached disk or drum of test strips.
  • Visibility. Check to make sure you can easily read the numbers on the device. You should also try to get one with a screen that is easy to see in low light or darkness.
  • Sounds. Monitors with sound systems can help people who have vision problems or other issues that make reading a screen hard.
  • Performance in low or high temperatures. Room temperature can affect the accuracy of test results. Some glucometers are designed to work better in high-heat environments, while others are designed to work better in colder temperatures.
  • Downloadable results. Many monitors let you download test results so you can easily email the results to your doctor.
  • Additional functions. Some glucometers measure blood glucose, blood pressure, and blood ketones. Some units can communicate with insulin pumps.
  • Where you get your sample. Some glucose monitors only work if you prick your finger for a blood sample. Others will let you take samples from an arm, thigh, or palm of your hand.
  • Required blood drop size. Monitors differ in the amount of blood they need for testing. Amounts can be as small as 0.3 microliters to as much as 1.5 microliters.
  • Speed. Some monitors deliver results faster than others.
  • Pain. Some glucometers give a prick that is more painful than others.
  • Memory. Some monitors store 100 readings, while others can store up to 5,000 readings.
  • Wireless functionality. Some glucometers provide a wireless Bluetooth computer interface, making it easier to transmit your information to your phone or other device.
  • Technical support. Some manufacturers offer technical support to help you troubleshoot when the device is not working.
  • Doctor’s recommendation. Your doctor may have opinions about which monitors seem to work best, are most reliable, or easiest to use.

Continuous glucose monitoring

As the name suggests, continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) checks glucose readings every few minutes. A sensor placed on the skin transmits readings to a small device that sounds an alarm if your blood sugar gets too high to too low. You can then manage your blood sugar with an insulin pump, injection, or pills. There are several different types of CGMs to choose from.2

Blood glucose monitors for people with special need

People who have trouble seeing, hearing, or moving may need a special kind of glucometer. There are monitors with:3

  • Larger, backlit screens
  • A voice that announces the results or other details, such as when the batteries are running low
  • A built-in drum or disk of strips to reduce how often you have to handle the tiny, individual test strips

You can learn more about glucose meters and find the one right for you at Consumer Reports or Diabetes Forecast Consumer Guide.

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