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A diabetes monitor is a small electronic device used to check blood sugar levels at home, work, school or other locations. Also known as a glucose meter, this monitor analyzes a small drop of blood from the tester. Within seconds, the diabetes monitor will show the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. Glucose meters allow diabetics to see how medications, food, exercise and other factors affect their blood sugar levels.
There are three additional components to a typical diabetes monitoring kit: lancets, test strips and control solutions. Lancets are small, disposable needles used to prick the skin and draw a drop of blood. The drop of blood is then placed on a new test strip and inserted into the diabetes monitor. Occasionally, control solution can be placed on the test strip to ensure that the glucose meter is properly functioning. When used, the meter should show the same reading that is printed on the control solution container.
In the United States, blood sugar readings are reported in milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood (mg/dl). Millimoles per liter (mmol/L) are used internationally. For example, a non-diabetic person should receive readings of less than 100 mg/dl (5.5 mmol/L) two hours after eating. After fasting, a non-diabetic person might receive readings of less than 83 mg/dl (4.6 mmol/L).
A diabetes monitor uses one of two methods to monitor blood sugar levels. Some models test blood sugar levels by measuring the amount of electricity that passes through the test strip. Others measure the amount of light that is reflected off the test strip.
Many types of diabetes monitors are available. They come in a variety of sizes to make blood sugar testing more convenient. Some are small enough to be easily tucked away in a purse or pocket. Some bigger ones feature extra-large screens for people who have vision problems.
The average diabetes monitor will require a drop of blood from the fingertip. Some models allow testing from different areas of the body. Testing on the thigh, forearm or palm is usually less painful because these areas contain fewer nerves than the fingertips. Alternate testing sites cause less discomfort, but they might provide less accurate results in some cases.
Some diabetes monitors store readings in their internal memory. Others can even transfer readings to a computer and generate graphs. Some companies manufacture more fashionable diabetes monitors that come in different colors and designs. The cost of glucose meters ranges in accordance with their features.
The thing to remember about meters is they are cheap; it's the strips that cost so much. However, a generic meter is about as accurate as a brand name one, and the strips are usually a heck of a lot cheaper. This is especially true for those who don't have health insurance.
Ideally, health insurance should cover strips, but the doctor has to make sure he or she writes the prescription in a way so the insurance company will cover testing more than once a day. They don't like to pay for strips, either.
For people who like to keep an eye on their blood sugar range, many meters can be hooked up to a computer and software that is included with the meter can show daily, weekly and monthly trends. This is helpful for both the patient and the doctor.