Self-Monitoring of Blood Glucose in Diabetes

A tree in Maui. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
A tree in Maui. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

Diabetes mellitus or simply called diabetes is a chronic, lifelong condition that affects our body’s ability to use the energy found in food. This happens when our body’s capacity to produce insulin is diminished.

There are two types of diabetes – not counting gestational diabetes that occurs during pregnancy.

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, and was previously known as juvenile diabetes. Only five per cent of people with diabetes have this form of the disease. The body is not capable of producing insulin.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. In this situation the body produces insulin but the body does not use insulin properly. Eventually, the pancreas that normally produces insulin fails.

Individuals with diabetes have to check the blood sugar levels regularly to make sure it is within normal range. If the levels are too high then it can cause many complications. Instead of going to a lab for blood tests diabetic patients can now do their own blood tests and adjust their own insulin dosage.

Consumer Report (Blood Glucose Meter Buying Guide) says today’s blood glucose meters are smaller, faster, and come with more features than ever before. They’re also more accurate than blood glucose meters of years past. That’s good news for approximately 30 million North Americans with diabetes.

Why is it so important for diabetics to monitor their blood sugar levels?

Controlling blood glucose is key to managing diabetes and preventing complications. Test results help patients make adjustments to their diet, exercise routine, and diabetes treatment plan, which can help lower the risk of seizures, blindness, kidney disease, and nerve damage. There are dozens of models available priced between $10 and $75.

The Consumer Report warns don’t just look at the retail price of the meters alone. What makes blood glucose monitoring expensive is the test strips that you might use many times a day. At $18 to $184 per 100 test strips, the cost can add up to about $265 to $2,685 a year for people who test four times a day. Also there is a learning curve to make sure you get a full value for your health and investment.

Does regular monitoring of your blood sugar make your health better?

Xiang and colleagues (Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, July 2014) says the blood glucose meter is the most successful and widely used portable device for point-of-care tests. The device has more than 50 years of technology development. So the device has stood the test of time. Regular self-monitoring of blood glucose levels in diabetics play a key role in preventing complications in the short, medium and long term.

How do you decide which meter to buy?

One way is to ask your friends who have similar health issues. Ask your doctor, nurse, dietician or individuals who work in diabetic clinics. See what the Consumer Reports has to say. Experts at their National Testing and Research Center tested 25 models to see which ones perform best.

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