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All About Blood Glucose Meters


Get to know one of your most important tools for managing diabetes

A blood glucose meter, also called glucometer, is a test system for use at home to measure the amount of sugar (glucose) in your blood.

How do glucose meters work?

To use a blood glucose meter, prick your finger with a lancet to get a drop of blood. Then place the blood on a disposable "test strip" that is inserted in your meter. The test strip contains chemicals that react with glucose. Some meters measure the amount of electricity that passes through the test strip. Others measure how much light reflects from it. In the U.S., meters report results in milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood, or mg/dl.

How often should you test your glucose?

Follow your doctor's recommendations about how often you test your glucose. You may need to test yourself several times each day to determine adjustments in your diet or treatment.

How to choose a glucose meter?

There are many different types of meters available for purchase that differ in several ways, including:

  • accuracy
  • amount of blood needed for each test
  • how easy it is to use
  • pain associated with using the product
  • testing speed
  • overall size
  • ability to store test results in memory
  • likelihood of interferences
  • ability to transmit data to a computer
  • cost of the meter
  • cost of the test strips used
  • doctor's recommendation
  • technical support provided by the manufacturer
  • special features such as automatic timing, error codes, large display screen, or spoken instructions or results

Talk to your healthcare provider about the right glucose meter for you, and how to use it.

How can you check your meter's performance?

There are three ways to make sure your meter works properly:

  1. Use liquid control solutions:
    • every time you open a new container of test strips
    • occasionally as you use the container of test strips
    • if you drop the meter
    • whenever you get unusual results

To test a liquid control solution, you test a drop of these solutions just like you test a drop of your blood. The value you get should match the value written on the test strip vial label.

  1. Use electronic checks. Every time you turn on your meter, it does an electronic check. If it detects a problem it will give you an error code. Look in your meter’s manual to see what the error codes mean and how to fix the problem. If you are unsure if your meter is working properly, call the toll-free number in your meter’s manual, or contact your health care provider.
  1. Compare your meter with a blood glucose test performed in a laboratory. Take your meter with you to your next appointment with your healthcare provider. Ask your provider to watch your testing technique to make sure you are using the meter correctly. Ask your healthcare provider to have your blood tested with a laboratory method. If the values you obtain on your glucose meter match the laboratory values, then your meter is working well and you are using good technique.

Can you test blood glucose from sites other than your fingers?

Some meters allow you to test blood from sites other than the fingertip. Examples of such alternative sampling sites are your palm, upper arm, forearm, thigh, or calf. Alternative site testing (AST) should not be performed at times when your blood glucose may be changing rapidly, as these alternative sampling sites may provide inaccurate results at those times. You should use only blood from your fingertip to test if any of the following applies:

  • you have just taken insulin
  • you think your blood sugar is low
  • you are not aware of symptoms when you become hypoglycemic
  • the results do not agree with the way you feel
  • you have just eaten
  • you have just exercised
  • you are ill
  • you are under stress

Also, you should never use results from an alternative sampling site to calibrate a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), or in insulin dosing calculations.


Source: The US Food and Drug Administration. Accessed June 7, 2017.

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