Health Information: Blood Glucose Meters


A Blood Glucose Metre is an instrument used by a person with diabetes to monitor his/her blood glucose level.


Regular measurement of blood glucose levels allows a person with diabetes, in consultation with their Health Professional, to determine the dosage of insulin or tablets and the amount of food and exercise required to maintain a healthy blood sugar level. For more information regarding the benefits of blood glucose monitoring and the factors which influence blood glucose levels, see the Blood Glucose Monitoring topic. A blood glucose monitoring kit contains: Blood Glucose Metre; reagent strips; control glucose solutions to test the accuracy of the monitor; lancet devices for taking blood from the fingers and; alcohol pads to degrease and wipe the site where the finger is pricked.

The technique for testing blood glucose levels involves putting a drop of blood from a finger prick onto a special strip impregnated with enzymes which react with the glucose in the blood. The strip may be read by comparing its colour to a colour chart, or automatically in a blood glucose Metre. Results are recorded in a book which should be taken to the Doctor on each visit. It is important to remember that if the technique used is not accurate, or tests are not timed precisely, the results will not be correct. Also, only certain strips can be used with Blood Glucose Metres.
The key points to remember about testing are to get a good drop of blood, time accurately, remove blood correctly (not all Metres require the blood to be removed and check the Metre regularly.
It is important to assemble all equipment before commencing a blood glucose test. All equipment should be cleaned and stored after use. To obtain a drop of blood;
- Wash and dry hands thoroughly. (In cold weather, it may best to run warm water over the finger before testing.)
- Squeeze blood towards the tip of the finger.
- Prick confidently with the lancet on the side of the fingertip. An automatic finger pricking device may be used.
- Squeeze towards the end of the finger until a large drop has formed. It may help to hang the hand downwards if experiencing difficulty, and to warm the hands by rubbing together before performing the test.

Complete the test according to the system chosen. Do not use the same finger for every test and do not prick the pads of the fingers. The ear lobes may be used, although it is difficult to apply the blood to the strip without assistance. The feet should never be used, except in the case of infants where blood can be obtained from the heel. Finger pricks are almost painless if an automatic finger prick device is used. These devices are easy to use, are spring loaded and durable if taken care of. Most people prefer to use this type of device rather than the lancet alone. Lancets should be used once only and discarded into an approved sharps container. Never put used lancets or needles into general rubbish bins.

There are a variety of strips available which provide acceptable accuracy provided the timing is accurate and the strips are used in accordance with the manufacturer's directions. Strips can be damaged if exposed to heat, light or moisture. It is important to keep the container tightly capped with the packet of chemicals (the desiccant) inside. Store the strips at room temperature. The expiry date which is stamped on each container should be checked before use. Strips should not be cut or folded in any way, and they can only be used once.

Before deciding to purchase a Metre it is wise to examine those available to determine the most suitable type. It is advisable to ask for a demonstration of the Metre before purchasing it. There are two types of Metres available.
- A Metre in which the person places a drop of blood on the reagent strip, blots it then places it in the Metre where it is read photometrically or colorimetrically.
- A Metre in which the person's blood is not blotted and the blood glucose is measured via an electric charge from a computer chip in the monitor when the reagent strip is inserted. This type of blood glucose Metre is preferable as it removes a step from the process and reduces the risk of error by the person using it.
Differences in Blood Glucose Metres currently available include:
- SIZE - very small Metres are available which are easy to carry and allow a person to test blood glucose levels discreetly;
- MEMORY RECALL - most Metres can recall several past readings and some can download reading to a computer so trends can be analysed;
- PRICE - Metres which have the capability to download data are obviously more expensive and require the purchase of software needed to read and analyse the information.
- CALIBRATION - most Metres have a calibration strip that is included with each box of reagent strips and the Metre must be recalibrated for each new box of strips.

- Handle the Blood Glucose Metre with care. Dropping the Metre can damage it.
- Excessive heat, cold, or humidity can damage the Metre.
- Clean the display window and the test strip guide using a damp cotton cloth. Do not allow water to get into the Metre. Check the instructions for specific cleaning directions.
- If the Blood Glucose Metre will not turn on or if it turns off during use, the batteries may be low or may have run down.

Treatment Options

If you have diabetes, you should consult your Doctor for treatment. Your Doctor may prescribe insulin injections or tablets called oral hypoglycaemic agents. The correct technique for carrying out an accurate blood glucose test will be explained by your Doctor or diabetes educator. If in doubt, continue to ask queries until you feel comfortable with the procedure. Your Doctor will give you dietary and exercise advice and will also advise you how often and when to take your blood glucose reading.

Pharmacist's Advice

Ask your Pharmacist for advice
1) There are a number of different Blood Glucose meters available from your Pharmacy.
2) Ask your Pharmacist to recommend the most suitable type of Metre for your needs and to demonstrate how a blood glucose reading is taken. Do not purchase a Blood Glucose Metre until you are sure that you understand how to use it correctly.
3) Remember to check the expiry date on your control glucose solution. Out of date solutions can give a false reading.
4) Remember to shake the vial of control glucose solution before using it. This helps to mix the ingredients in the solution together to give an accurate reading.
5) Keeping a written diary of test results is very important. A diary helps you and your Doctor to track your blood glucose levels over a period of time. This will indicate the effectiveness of the treatment schedule you are currently using.
6) Build-up lint, dirt and blood may affect the accuracy of Blood Glucose Metres. Regular, thorough inspections and cleaning of all Metres is essential.
7) Ask your Pharmacist for a sharps container to dispose of used lancets and needles.

Organisations & Support Groups

Contact Diabetes Australia for further information.
ACT (06) 288 9830; NSW (02) 9660 3200; NT (089) 27 8488; QLD (07) 3846 4600; SA (08) 8234 1977; TAS (002) 6234 5223; VIC (03) 9630 0255 ; (09) 425 7699.

Please Wait...