All glucometers perform the same duty – they monitor your blood glucose levels. That being said, the biggest variable in glucometers is price. Depending on your lifestyle, a basic model may work for you as long as it’s accurate. Other people want to spend more for smaller or more portable units, or multiple tests for accuracy checks from one prick. Then there’s the matter of whether or not you need to use any coding in your meter. Your ultimate decision will depend on which of these factors you want, and what your wallet can afford.
When shopping for a glucometer, the main things you should consider are accuracy, test strip coding, storage capacity, price, and special features. Glucometers, like stethoscopes
and catheters, are medical devices. You should, first and foremost, be looking for a device that’s accurate. We’ll get into this more later, but looking for FDA-approved devices is a good start.
The next major consideration is the actual testing process. A basic device consists of a lancet, a test strip area, and a screen that displays your reading. Some glucometers require less blood than others, which is nice if you have to check your glucose levels ten times a day.
It’s also important to consider how you replace the lancets for drawing blood
and glucose testing strips
, as this can impact ease of use and sanitation. In a best case scenario, you should look for a glucometer that comes with lancets, has an easy-to-use mechanism for changing lancets and test strips, technology to automatically read test strip codes, and uses as little blood as possible. You probably won’t find all of these features in basic, cheap glucometers, so be prepared to spend more if these aspects are important to you.
The only other considerations for glucometers are what extra features it has to offer. Does it have an easy-to-read back-lit LCD screen? Does it have an alarm system to alert users of high glucose levels? Does it have the ability to store readings, and if so, how many? Does it have a light near the test strip area to make changing strips easy? How many test strips can it hold at a time? Is it Bluetooth-compatible?
The purpose of this review is to help you pick the best glucometer for your health and lifestyle, but before we get to our top 5 picks, let’s take a closer look at what factors are important to look for.
Purchasing a glucometer is a long-term investment in your health. The pricing of glucometers is primarily influenced by technology, which translates to the features it offers. You can buy a cheap glucometer for about twenty dollars. It won’t have many bells and whistles, but it should be accurate and easy to use. However, since this is a product that affects your health and general wellbeing, you may appreciate the added features pricier models have to offer – especially if you use it several times a day. We included models ranging from $19.99 to $74.99 so that you can compare the different features usually found at different price points.
Some insurance companies may offer coverage for certain glucometer brands and test strips, so be sure to check before purchasing either. Also, it’s important to know that test strips are the real expense when it comes to testing your blood glucose levels. Some people have to test their glucose levels 10 times per day. Strips can range from $8 to $50 for a box of 50, which can obviously add up really fast if you have to use several each day.
Whether you buy a $10 glucometer or a $100 glucometer, the absolute most important thing is accuracy. More expensive models are going to have extra features that may make them easier to use, such as lighted testing areas and alerts to check ketone levels, but accuracy is never something you should have to sacrifice. The FDA regulates glucometer accuracy in the US because they are medical devices. When shopping for a glucometer, make sure the model you’re looking at has been FDA-approved for accuracy.
Aside from accuracy, every other feature found in glucometers is really a matter of convenience and luxury. Their primary duty is to check your blood glucose levels. As long as it can accurately do that, then it’s doing its job. That being said, there are some neat features you might want to be on the lookout for.
Depending on how much you want to spend, we recommend looking for these features:
- FDA-approved for accuracy
- Compact design for portability
- Reads results in 5 seconds or less
- Large screen that is easy to read
- Uses minimal blood per test (i.e. 0.3μl)
- Memory that can store hundreds of readings
- Easy to use and maintain
- Mechanism to sanitarily change test strips
- Uses batteries or is rechargeable
- Includes 5-year to lifetime warranty
- Built-in alarm to alert user of high or low glucose levels
As we mentioned, you don’t really need
every one of these features. All that matters is that your glucometer accurately reads your blood glucose levels. As you can see from this list though, modern glucometers have some really great features that have the potential to improve your quality of life. Now let’s take a look at the design and construction aspects of glucometers.
Construction and Design
Glucometers vary dramatically in size, ranging from about 2” x 3” to tiny travel-size versions that measure 1” x 2”. If you plan on using your glucometer several times a day, you’ll need one that you can travel with. Another factor that affects portability is the power source it uses. Most models use AA, AAA, or CR2032 batteries, but some newer glucometers are rechargeable using a USB port. If you have an active lifestyle and are always on-the-go, you may appreciate a rechargeable glucometer than you can charge from your vehicle or while you’re out and about.
To use a glucometer, you first use the lancet to prick yourself. Then, you apply a sample of your blood to a test strip and the machine reads it. The average reading time is 5 seconds or less. Some modern glucometers claim to require less blood than their predecessors, but we found the amount of blood required for each test to range from 0.3 μl to 1.5μl. Some units have the ability to check a single blood sample up to 500 times in as little as several seconds! This is a great feature because it ensures your reading is as accurate as possible.
Most glucometers hold a certain number of test strips inside them. Some even include mechanisms to easily eject test strips, which encourages sanitation. Also, it’s important to note that some test strips require the user to enter coding information. To do this, you check the code on the test strip and enter it into the machine. Newer models have the ability to automatically read test strip codes, making them easier to use, especially for people that have poor eyesight or coordination.
As we mentioned, most glucometers have built-in memory that can store several hundred readings at a time. This is an unnecessary but nice feature because it makes it easy to track your glucose levels over an extended period of time and recognize patterns indicating your health. Some new models can even sync with your phone or computer via Bluetooth to upload your results, which you can then share with your doctor.
Performance and Ease of Use
Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy! That’s what glucometers are all about. It’s extremely important that your glucometer is accurate because an incorrect reading could seriously jeopardize your health. Look for models that are FDA-approved. As long as it’s accurate, its performance is up to par. Most meters come with a small tube of glucose so that you can check its accuracy before using it for the first time. Compare the results to the range listed on the tube of test strips it comes with to ensure it’s accurate.
Most glucometers are pretty easy to use and offer readings in 5 seconds or less. The most complicated part is usually changing the test strips and coding, but modern technology is simplifying the process all the time. Glucometers that have large back-lit LCD screens and lights near the test strip area may be even easier to use than their counterparts since they’re easier to read. It’s amazing to see the advances technology has made in glucometers over the last decade. We can’t wait to see what the next one brings!
Improve your quality of life today by choosing any of the five glucometers featured in this review. We’re confident that they will all deliver the accurate, timely results you depend on. However, if any of the products we’ve decided to feature aren’t right for you, don’t forget to see the other quality glucometers these highly-rated brands have to offer.