Your body is constantly responding to changes in energy needs. Have you ever felt lightheaded or shaky after a brisk walk or skipping a meal? That’s the effect of low blood sugar.
Learn More About Diabetes
If you have diabetes, you should have a diabetes meter and know how to use it correctly. Checking your blood sugar levels helps you see how your body reacts to different activities and foods. You can then change your behaviors and diet to avoid fluctuating sugar levels. Monitoring your blood sugar levels also helps you and your doctor decide if your treatment is working or if changes are needed.
Currently, there are two types of diabetes meters: glucometers and continuous glucose monitors.
What Is a Glucometer?
Glucometers are the traditional and most common way to check your blood sugar. Glucometers let you check your sugar levels anywhere, at any time. They’re available without a prescription at your local pharmacy.
Glucometers work by using a small blood sample. Traditionally, glucometers use blood samples from your fingertip. However, newer meters can use blood samples from your arm or thigh. Once you have a drop of blood, you place it on a test strip and put the test strip in the glucometer. The test strip uses chemicals to test how much sugar is in your blood sample. The glucometer displays the result on a screen. Timing is key when you test, so it’s important to have everything ready before you start.
To use a glucometer, you need some supplies, including a lancing (pricking) device, lances, and test strips. Lances are special needles that prick your skin when you activate the lancing device. The lancing device is usually a spring-loaded device with a release button. You may also need other items, such as a carrying case, a disposal container, and a solution to calibrate your meter to make sure it is accurate. While it may sound complicated, you’ll manage it with ease after some instruction and practice.
Many glucometers keep track of your test results and let you record what you’ve eaten or how you’ve exercised. You or your doctor can view your trends on the screen or even download them to a computer. If your meter doesn’t have these features, use a notebook or a logbook instead.
What Is a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM)?
Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems are a newer type of diabetes monitor. They have three parts: a sensor, transmitter, and monitor. The tiny sensor is located under your skin and checks the sugar levels in your tissues. It’s replaced every few days. The transmitter is a small device that you wear on your skin over the sensor. It sends your test results to a wireless monitor that’s about the size of a cell phone or pager. The monitor displays your test results and can be set to alert you for sugar levels that are too high or too low.
The sensor can test your glucose every one to five minutes. This frequent monitoring can show you trends in your sugar levels over an entire day. Because glucometers only show you one point in time, you may see trends with CGM that a glucometer can’t show.
There are some drawbacks to CGM, including a lag effect. A lag effect happens because it takes time for sugar to move from your blood into your tissues (cells). Because CGMs measure sugar in your tissues, they aren’t as accurate as glucometers. When you get a high or low alarm from your CGM, it’s important to verify it with a glucometer before taking any action. You must also use a glucometer twice a day to calibrate your CGM system.
CGMs are more expensive than glucometers and require a doctor’s prescription. However, they can be especially helpful if you use insulin. Studies have shown that CGM systems can help certain people with diabetes achieve better glucose control.