Glucose Monitoring: Getting Started

Why It's Important and How to Get a Meter

Testing for blood sugar. Photographers Choice/Getty Images

If your doctor has been mentioning terms and phrases like prediabetes, diabetes, blood glucose or blood sugar, it may just be a matter of time before she recommends that you self monitor using glucose monitoring. 

What your doctor is talking about refers to when the cells in your body start becoming or are resistant to insulin. It may also mean that your pancreas does not produce as much insulin as required to break down the sugar (glucose) in your blood after eating.

Either way, it means that you may be at risk for diabetes and you require glucose monitoring.

Why Is Glucose Monitoring So Important?

The only way you can confidently know what your blood glucose level is at any given time is to test it. Regular testing will help you identify high and low levels before serious problems could develop. When testing is performed on a regular basis, it helps you assess how well you are balancing your insulin therapy, meal planning, and exercise to manage your diabetes. These test results will also provide valuable information for your doctor to help make adjustments to your overall care plan.

Research has shown that frequent blood glucose testing is the cornerstone of effective diabetes management. The Diabetes Control and Complication Trial (DCCT), one of the most important studies to date on the association between glucose control and long-term complications, found that regular testing reduced the risk of developing long-term complications.

How Do Glucose Meters Work?

Fortunately, there are many small, pocket-sized blood glucose monitoring devices that will check your glucose levels in seconds using only a small drop of blood. These portable, battery-operated meters measure your blood glucose from a very small sample of blood that is usually obtained from pricking your finger with a lancing device.

Glucose meters allow you to obtain the the following information, quickly and easily:

  • A measurement of your blood glucose level at a given time
  • Lets you know if you have a high or low blood glucose level at a given time
  • Overtime lets you see how your lifestyle and medication affect your blood glucose levels
  • The information helps you and your health-care team to make lifestyle and medication changes to improve your blood glucose levels since many of these devices also allow you to download your results to your computer to make graphs and charts of your readings to help spot trends or trouble spots.

How Can I Get a Meter?

You can purchase these blood glucose meters at your local pharmacy without a prescription. Most meters cost between $40 and 100. But, before you buy one, it is advisable to talk with your doctor. Many doctors receive glucose meters from the companies that manufacture them for the purpose of giving them to patients for free. You may also be able to get a free starter kit of testing strips from your doctor.

Other options include asking your pharmacist about discounts or rebate coupons or call the manufacturer directly. But before getting any monitor, find out whether your insurance will cover the meter and strips. Some insurance companies will only cover particular meters.


The Diabetes Control and Complication Trial and Follow-up Study. National Diabetes Education Program. Accessed September 23, 2008.

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