Trend Report: High-Tech Glucose Monitoring

If you got a free glucometer from your doctor, you may not have thought to check out your other options. But these days, you have a lot of exciting new choices -- not just glucometers, but other devices, apps, and web sites. These make glucose monitoring simpler, more effective, and a lot more convenient.

21st Century Communication

Just like every other piece of tech in your life these days -- your TV, computer, DVD player, e-book reader, and fitness tracker -- glucose meters are going wireless, or at least syncing data with web sites and apps. That can have a big benefit for your health. Here are some of the new things you can do with a glucometer.

Share data with your doctor or anyone else you choose, like your spouse. You can give real-time updates on how your treatment is working. Since managing diabetes is all about tight control of your blood sugar, that's crucial.

See a more complete picture of your health. When you're just looking at today's glucose readings, you're missing how it's trending overall. These devices and apps let you see glucose trends over weeks and months.

Seeing your records in colorful graphs and charts makes it easier to understand -- and to figure out if you need to make changes. For instance, a graph can quickly show if your blood sugar tends to be high in the mornings. Then you can easily share that with your doctor to see if you need to change your treatment.

Track food and more. Most devices and apps let you log the food you eat.

In that same tracker, you can see how your carbs add up, and you can add notes about exercise, or insulin if you take it.

With this kind of info, you can get a clearer sense of how your breakfast or afternoon run affect your blood sugar levels.

Sync with an app, web site, or the cloud. Several new cutting-edge glucose monitors or other devices that transmit data include:

  • iHealth Wireless Smart Gluco-Monitoring System and the Telcare Wireless Glucose Meter are wireless glucometers that sync with your phone. Both have apps and web sites to help you track your health.
  • Ditto isn't a glucose meter. Instead, it's a small device that connects to your glucose meter. It takes readings from your device -- it works with nine models -- and wirelessly sends them to an app on your phone, which uploads it to a web site.
  • Glooko is a cable that connects your phone to up to 21 different FDA-approved glucometers. As soon as you connect the two, Glooko uploads the information to the cloud.

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Store more readings. If you're not getting a meter that syncs data, you might want one with a lot of memory to store readings. Most meters save 100 to 450 readings, but some keep up to 3,000.

These devices can use all that data to show you charts and graphs of long-term trends right on the meter's display. A few meters with big memories include the Contour USB, OneTouch UltraSmart, Up & Up Meter, and the WaveSense Jazz.

Apps for Diabetes

Even if you don't want to spend the extra cash on a fancy syncing glucometer, you can get a lot of the same benefits with low-cost or free phone apps or web sites.

You do have to remember to enter your glucose readings into the app or web site yourself. But besides that, you'll get a lot of the other benefits of high-end devices -- the ability to share information, enter carbs or exercise, and track trends over time.

Some examples of diabetes-specific apps include:

DiabetesPal syncs with the BodyMedia Fit and Withings Pulse fitness trackers. So you have a record of your physical activity side-by-side with your glucose readings and other data.

dLife Diabetes Companion not only lets you track your glucose and food, but it offers recipes, videos, and expert Q&As.

My Glucose Buddy is a popular and easy-to-use tracker that records glucose levels and other info.

MyNetDiary's Diabetes Tracker has a FoodCheck feature that lets you compare foods when dining out or shopping. It also syncs with the FitBit exercise tracker.

TactioHealth syncs with the Bodymedia Fit, Fitbit, and Withings Pulse fitness trackers. It also stores your glucose, A1c, and other data and lets you print out detailed reports for your doctor.

A lot of these apps and web sites have online communities that you can join. Using them is a great way to get support and stay inspired.

Your Glucometer Shopping Checklist

Whether you're going for a high-tech glucometer or a more basic model, there are some key factors you need to consider.

The eyes have it. Make sure your device has an easy-to-read display. Some glucometers have a backlight so you can check readings in the dark, like the Contour Next Link, EasyMax Light, Freestyle Lite, OneTouch Ping, and WaveSense Presto. Others have a bigger readout or a sharper contrast to make them easier to see.

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Listen up. If you have vision problems, check out a glucometer with voice readout -- it will speak your reading.

Some meters with voice readout include the Advocate Redi-Code, Easy Max Voice, Element Plus, Fora (many models), and Prodigy.

Give it a test run. If you can, get your hands on a device before you buy it, so you'll know how it feels. Make sure the buttons are well-placed and easy to press.

If you have trouble picking up small things or have dexterity issues with your hands, using larger strips may be more comfortable.

A glucometer with an attached strip drum or disk may be easier to handle, too. You won't have to mess with those tiny, slippery test strips.

Watch for hidden costs. Don't forget to price the strips --a cheap or even a free glucometer can be costlier in the long run because the strips are so expensive. Make sure your insurance company will cover the strips for any device you choose.

Pass the test. Find out if the monitor tests itself to make sure it's accurate. If it doesn't self-test, you may occasionally use a control solution -- a testing liquid with a specific glucose level -- on a strip to make sure it's working correctly. Also, find out if the meter needs to be cleaned, and how.

Time's a wastin'. Make sure you don't have to enter a code or special key when changing test strips. That's a hassle you don't need.

To get a sense what glucose meter will suit you best -- and what data or design will help most -- ask your doctor or diabetes educator for advice.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on April 26, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

Marjorie Cypress, PhD, RN, president-elect of health care and education, American Diabetes Association, Albuquerque, NM.

American Diabetes Association: "10 Ways to Master Your Blood Glucose Meter;" "Blood Glucose Meters; "Blood Glucose Meters 2013;" and "Continuous Glucose Monitors."

FDA: "Blood Glucose Monitoring Devices," "Common Problems with the Use of Blood Glucose Meters at the Point of Care."

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