What is a glucose monitor? Well, if you or someone you know is diabetic then you have likely heard the term glucose monitor or CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor),
However, you may not fully understand what they are and how they can aid in diabetes management.
What is diabetes?
When a person has type 1 diabetes their immune system attacks and kills the insulin-producing beta cells in their pancreas.
This means they can’t produce enough or any insulin.
We produce insulin to act as the gateway for the glucose from our food to enter our cells to be used as energy.
Without that insulin, our cells can’t get the fuel they need to function properly.
A type 2 diabetic either doesn’t make enough insulin or their body can’t properly use it.
In both types of diabetes, this can cause blood glucose levels to rise to cause several complications and can even be life-threatening.
For this reason, diabetics must monitor their blood glucose levels carefully and inject insulin or other diabetes medications.
A glucose monitor is a device that tests the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood.
A glucose meter involves pricking the finger with a lancet and placing a drop of blood on the test strip.
The meter will then read the results.
The course of action taken for optimal health will depend on those results.
A continuous glucose meter requires that you wear a disk with a sensor inserted under the skin and continuously read blood glucose levels, sending the results to a monitor.
These can significantly reduce the number of finger pokes required however they are quite expensive and not all insurance companies cover them.
Our young grandson has endured countless finger pokes each day for over a year now.
About 3 months after his diagnosis his doctors and parents decided a CGM would be right for him.
That certainly cuts down on the finger pokes.
We simply scan the disc to get a reading and only do finger pokes before meals and if the monitor is showing him low.
Let’s take a closer look and learn more about both traditional glucose meters and CGMs.
What is a Blood Glucose Monitor
If you or someone you care for has diabetes, chances are you need a blood glucose monitor, test strips, a lancet, and replacement needles for the lancet.
To properly manage your diabetes, you will need to frequently monitor your blood glucose levels throughout each day and night.
Yes properly managing diabetes is a 24-hour job with no rest.
Everything you do
affects your blood glucose levels.
This makes selecting the right glucose monitor important.
Your life depends not only on the accuracy of your monitor but also on your ability to read it.
We find with Alex, letting him choose which finger to poke makes the process go much easier.
Now that Alex is a big grade 1 kid, he sometimes wants to do his own finger pokes. We let him.
This is important because it is his diabetes and ultimately he will need to learn to take care of it himself.
It gives him some sense of control to prick his own finger and the adults read the results and determine any necessary treatment.
What is a CGM
According to Diabetes Canada, a CGM (continuous glucose monitor) is a wearable device that tracks blood glucose levels every few minutes throughout the day and night.
The sensor tests sugar levels and sends this information to an attached transmitter which sends it to either a monitor or a smartphone app that can be read by the patient or caregiver.
This would be considered a ‘standalone’ CGM.
A CGM can also be paired with an insulin pump which would be called an integrated CGM system.
Alex has a standalone CGM because his doctors and parents decided against an insulin pump at this time.
With this system, you place a sensor either on your abdomen or upper arm which has a cannula that is inserted under the skin.
There is an adhesive patch that holds the sensor in place.
You will need to change the sensor and cannula every 7 to 14 days which is a lot less than countless finger pokes each day.
As you can see in the photo our grandson doesn’t mind wearing the disc and canula because to check his glucose we only need to scan the disc with its corresponding reader or phone app.
We do still do finger pokes if the reading shows he is low or before mealtimes.
The reason for this is that there is a 15-minute delay in his results.
So if we scan him and he shows low it is important to get a current number so we can decide how to treat him.
The other day at school his teacher scanned him and showed he was low at 3.6 mmol/L and the finger poke revealed he was currently at 2.6 mmol/L, dangerously low.
Yes, they fed him a snack and gave him some apple juice, and called his parents. I picked him up at his mother’s request and closely monitored him at 15-minute intervals. His numbers were coming back up into the desired zone by the time I handed him over to his mother.
Choose the right meter for you
It can be difficult to decide which method of monitoring your blood glucose is right for you.
Here are a few things to consider before deciding on which glucose monitor you go with.
It is a good idea to check with your insurance provider before selecting your glucose monitor. Some providers limit coverage to certain models or they may limit the number of test strips allowed for a specific period.
The price of various meters varies and depending on your insurance coverage this could be an issue. Remember to factor in the cost of the test strips. You will go through plenty.
Ease of Use and Maintenance
Some meters are easier to use than others and some are easier to read. You need to determine whether the meter and test strips are easy to hold and comfortable? Can you easily see the screen to read the results? How easy is it to get the blood onto the test strips? How big of a drop of blood is required? These are all things to be considered before deciding.
Some glucose meters may have special features such as large easy to handle buttons and test strips, illuminated screens, and perhaps even audio for the visually impaired.
Choose a meter with the features you need to make testing blood glucose easier for you.
Information storage and retrieval
Consider the meter storage system. Some of them can track everything that you would normally record in a log. This could include the time and date of a test, the result, trends over time. Some can even send the results to your doctor or you may be able to download your results to a computer and email them to your doctor.
Some manufacturers offer a toll-free number you can call for advice. I would look for a meter with clear instructions that demonstrate the correct usage of the meter. Some manufacturers even offer user manuals that can be downloaded from their websites. It is important to fully understand how to use your meter correctly to get the results you need.
Talk with your Doctor
It is always best to discuss the type of glucose meter you are considering with your doctor. He can offer valuable insights into which models may be right for you.
What is a glucose monitor is something that every diabetic or diabetic caregiver has become quite familiar with.
There are the standard or traditional glucose monitors where you will prick your finger with a lancet and place a drop of blood on a test strip that has been placed in a glucose monitor.
The monitor will read the results and display the results on the screen.
These results will determine whether you need a snack or insulin or are within your target range.
Another popular option is a CGM (continuous glucose monitor).
These involve wearing a small disc on your arm or stomach with a cannula inserted just under the skin. You then scan the disc to get a blood glucose reading.
A CGM significantly reduces the number of finger pokes necessary.
It is also possible to get a CGM that can be integrated with an insulin pump.
Seek your doctor’s advice when it comes to selecting the right glucose monitor for you.
I am not in any way a medical practitioner, please do not rely on the information on our website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another healthcare provider. We only share our experiences.
Whichever model you choose, it doesn’t take long to become proficient with its use.
How do you monitor your blood glucose?
Do you do countless finger pokes?
Do you use a CGM?
Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.