Diabetes Forecast

When to Get a New Blood Glucose Meter?

I have had my current glucose meter for over 10 years. When should one consider getting a new meter? As long as the manufacturer still makes the strips, does it matter? Can meters become unreliable? Karen Adsit, Chattanooga, Tennessee

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Belinda Childs, ARNP, MN, BC-ADM, CDE, responds:

When I am asked this question in the office, I usually answer that the glucose meter you are using is acceptable as long as it is giving you accurate readings. The best way to know if your meter is accurate is to use the "glucose control" solution for your brand of glucose meter and strips. The meter companies recommend that you do this with each new bottle of test strips and any time you suspect that you may not be getting accurate readings. However, the glucose control solution is generally only good for 30 days after you open the bottle.

Some health care providers correlate meters with lab readings, but you must remember that there can be as much as a 10 to 15 percent variation between the readings you get with your meter from one test to the next, as well as between a home test and a lab result.

The key to your question, though, is that you have not had a new meter in more than 10 years. Technology has improved significantly over the past decade. Meters now require much less blood, and thus a smaller needle stick. This means less pain on the fingers. With many meters, you can also use alternate site testing and give your fingertips a break.

Test strip technology is better, too. Some strips allow reapplying blood on the same strip if there's not enough there to get a reading, so you do not use as many strips (and save on cost). Most manufacturers have removed the need to enter a code or change a code strip with each new bottle of strips.

Many meters now have data management programs to help you and your health care provider make sense of the numbers. You can make a note in the meter regarding the timing of the test, such as before or after a meal.

With all these advances, I'd say it's time to shop for a new blood glucose meter. One hint: You may want to check with your health insurance company to see if it has a preferred glucose meter list. Then ask your diabetes educator about different meters' features and decide which one is best for you. Next month, Diabetes Forecast will publish its annual guide to blood glucose meters and other diabetes supplies. The 2011 guide is still available online; to consult the list of meters, go to forecast.diabetes.org/consumerguide/charts.



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