How to Choose a Blood Glucose Meter

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Woman checking her blood sugar after excercise

Blood glucose meters are an essential part of your diabetes toolkit. Having type 1 diabetes means you need a way to check blood sugar several times each day. Though there are many blood glucose meters available, all meters are not created equal. Most blood glucose meters are accurate in how they measure your glucose but they differ in the type and number of features they offer. To find the blood glucose meter that best fits your needs and lifestyle, take a few minutes to answer these questions.

Do You Prefer a Small Meter To a Larger One?

Most meters are about 3 to 4 inches in length and width and vary in weight between 1 and 5 ounces. If you carry your meter in your purse or backpack, size may not matter. But if you plan to carry your meter in your pocket, or need it to fit into a small carrying case, then size might be a consideration. Note, however, that some small meters have very small display screens. So, if your eyesight is less than perfect, a small meter may not be best. If this is indeed a concern for you, you may also want to seek out meters specifically designed for the visually impaired that have larger, backlit display screens and audio features that “speak” test results.

What Blood Sample Size Are You Comfortable With?

The newer models use as little as 0.3 microliters of blood (about the amount that would fit on the head of a pin). Though most models use 1.0 microliter or less, there are a few that need significantly more to get an accurate reading.

Do You Want an Extensive Built-in Memory for Recording Glucose Results?

Every meter has some memory, but a few offer minimal data banking (10 to 125 tests). Most record between 250 and 500 tests, with one meter (One Touch UltraSmart) able to record up to 3,000 tests.

Would You Like to Be Able to Download Your Test Results to Your Computer?

This is a feature virtually all meters offer, along with the ability to e-mail your test results to your doctor. But, many do not offer software that is compatible with Apple computers. So, if this is an important feature for you, make sure to check out compatibility with the manufacturer before you buy.

Do You Want a Meter that Is Approved for Alternate Site Testing?

Most blood for glucose tests is taken after a finger prick from a lancing device. But some people prefer obtaining the blood sample from other areas. Virtually all meters are approved for alternate site testing (forearm, leg, upper arm), but a few meters are only approved for testing from particular areas (palm, upper arm, etc.).

How Much Can You Spend on the Meter and Test Strips?

Cost, of course, is a factor in any purchase. Meters can be purchased from your local pharmacy for between $20 and $90. At various times of the year, pharmacies will offer rebates on particular models. You may also be able to get a meter for free from your doctor or the manufacturer. The real expense of glucose testing is the test strips, which range from about 50 cents to $1 per strip, depending on the model.

How Much of Your Glucose Management Costs Will Insurance Cover?

Always check with your insurance company before purchasing your meter to determine if the cost of the meter and strips will be covered. Some insurance companies only provide coverage for particular meters. offers a helpful side-by-side comparison of blood glucose meters that are currently available.

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