For the many Americans diagnosed with diabetes each year, their condition brings a mountain of tests, instruments, and treatments. Although managing this condition straightforward, the sheer quantity of information can cause stress. For example, what is a glucometer and how is it used? Fortunately, there is a simple, straightforward answer to this question, and this device provides important information quickly and easily.
What Is A Glucometer?
A glucometer is a device that detects the amount of glucose in a patient’s blood. The name is 'glucose meter' shortened into a single word. Glucose is the main sugar in the bloodstream and is the energy source that powers the many functions of the human body. Although it is important to have glucose in the body, you must keep the level of glucose in the blood at a low amount due to the reactivity of the glucose molecules. Diabetes is a disorder where a persons's body cannot adequately control his or her glucose levels on its own.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease characterized by excess blood sugar levels due to two main causes. To understand diabetes, one must first understand insulin. This is a hormone produced in the pancreas that causes the human body to take glucose out of the blood and place it into storage. When patients have diabetes, either they have too little insulin, or the insulin does not appear to function well.
With Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce sufficient amounts, and the diabetes often begins in childhood. With Type 2 diabetes, the body appears to show resistance to insulin's actions, so blood sugar level stay high. This usually starts in adulthood.
Either way, blood sugar levels increase and create many serious symptoms. Diabetic neuropathy, where a person loses nerve sensations in extremities like fingers, hands, toes, and feet, is common with uncontrolled diabetes. Other symptoms can create visual impairment, slow wound healing, and frequent urination. Diabetes patients treat the disorder with insulin, usually through an injection or pump, and also supported by other medications. They must administer these treatments multiple times a day and they must closely monitor their effects to ensure health.
Most patients with diabetes will require a glucometer in their treatment because it is what guides patients to adjust their dose of insulin. These devices are used to monitor changes in blood glucose throughout the day and also from day to day. This creates a record of the peaks and valleys of a patient’s blood sugar and used to adjust insulin doses. A doctor will instruct patients as to the proper dosing procedures to use.
How To Use A Glucometer
This is information for most devices, but there may be distinct features unique to a specific glucometer. Please consult a medical professional and the device documentation before use. A summary of the steps is to choose a site for the blood sample, prepare equipment, get and test a blood sample, and record results follows. This testing will usually be performed several times a day as instructed by a healthcare professional.
Select Site For Blood Sample
The sides of fingertips get pricked to draw blood samples. This is less painful than using finger tips or the pads of the fingers. However, other sites can sometimes be used, such as a forearm or leg. You should discuss this with a healthcare professional. Also, since it requires multiple tests throughout the day, it is important that patients vary the spot tested to avoid infections or callous formation. For these directions, we reference a finger as the selected site.
Before using a glucometer, one has to be sure that all the equipment is available.
In the past, patients would use lancets to prick a finger to get a drop of blood to sample, but today, most patients are prescribed a lancing device in which the blade is protected by a plastic housing. A spring loaded mechanism moves the blade quickly, making a small incision. This can reduce pain and also helps prevent accidental cuts. Some lancing devices have replaceable lancets while others are disposable. Consult documentation for lancing devices for specific instructions.
There are a few steps to prepare both the patient and the equipment for a blood sugar measurement with a glucometer.
- Wash hands or clean your finger with an alcohol prep pad.
- Dry your hands.
- Prepare lancing device or lancet per directions from a medical professional and documentation.
- Be sure the test strips are not expired.
- Open test strip container or specific test strip packaging and remove a single strip.
- Turn on glucometer. Some devices will turn on automatically when you insert a test strip.
- Insert a test strip. There should be indicators on the strip for which end to insert.
- Close container of test strips if applicable.
Some test strips have a code that must be input into the glucometer. Others will have codes automatically programmed. Consult a healthcare professional or documentation for this information.
Using a glucometer to test for blood sugar can be a fast process. However, you can take certain steps to ensure accurate results.
- Be sure the glucometer is on and one's hands are dry.
- Using lancing device, make a small incision in the selected finger.
- Set down lancing device.
- Squeeze the selected finger, making a drop of blood.
- Place the drop of blood onto the test strip, filling the marked area if applicable.
- Wait a few moments for the glucometer to display the result.
If the glucometer reports an error, you must repeat the test with a new test strip. It may also require a new incision. Although it may be troublesome to repeat all the steps, an accurate reading is important to a patient’s health and proper procedures must be followed. When testing, dry fingers are important because water can dilute the blood sample, resulting in an inaccurate reading. Different test strips may require different amounts of blood. Consult with a healthcare professional or documentation for this specific information.
Be sure to record the glucose levels into a notebook if the glucometer does not automatically save results. Sometimes is it good to have a hard copy of the results even if the machine saves results into memory. Clean the finger used for the blood sample. Hold the alcohol prep over the incision to stop bleeding. If the incision does not stop bleeding quickly, you may need to adjust the lancing device. Consult with a healthcare professional for further instruction on this.
Dispose of used test strip and lancet. You can throw test strips away into the normal garbage, but lancets must be discarded into a sharps container. Be careful whenever handling a lancet to avoid injury. Some lancing devices have removable lancets while others are disposable. Patients should follow their specific instructions on how to manage their lancets. When full, bring sharps containers to an appropriate disposal site. A healthcare professional may know of these locations, possibly a hospital or other healthcare office.
Turn off the glucometer if it does not automatically shut off when test strips are removed. Place the glucometer, test strips, and other equipment back into their storage container to be ready for the next test. It is important to keep equipment in a cool, dry place to avoid damage and ensure accurate results. Patients should receive directions on how blood sugar levels affect their treatment and should follow these directions completely. Please consult with a healthcare professional for questions on these directions.
Tips for Use
For people with diabetes, a glucometer provides important information about the both the current level and also the progression on their blood sugar. Some units save this information in memory, but all patients can write this in a notebook. With this information, doctors can create treatment plans with modifications implemented based on a patient’s blood sugar.
If using a glucometer was difficult, this would be an arduous task. Fortunately, once patients are familiar with the steps required using this device, you can complete testing in a few minutes or even less, but even with familiarity, patients must be disciplined and complete all steps properly due to the importance of the information provided by a glucometer. However, with proper training and use, this device provides accurate measurements of a patient’s blood sugar, allowing for proper management of one’s diabetes.