Any person with diabetes should be made aware of the importance of having some idea of what your blood glucose levels are, on a day-to-day basis. The Diabetes UK website outlines why it is so important to do so:
“Self-monitoring of blood glucose is a beneficial part of diabetes management. As part of the day-to-day routine it can help with necessary lifestyle and treatment choices as well as help to monitor for symptoms of hypo- or hyperglycaemia, or signs of long-term complications.”
Many people with diabetes claim to know how high or low they are, based on how they are feeling. If someone has a high bg level, they may experience tiredness, blurred vision, thirst, for example. If someone has a low blood glucose level (bg level), they may feel shaky, dizzy, unable to concentrate, agitated, just to name a few. However, it has been shown that in the long run, a person who regularly tests their bg levels, is more likely to have a good HbA1c level.
From my own perspective, I test my bg levels a lot. Perhaps 4 or 5 times a day. This is because I don’t seem to be able to pick up warning signs of a hypo. This is potentially dangerous, as I could eventually end up in a coma, should my bg levels drop that low. Luckily, this hasn’t happened to me (touch wo0d) but I have to test my level a lot more frequently, as a result:
- Before breakfast (to see if I have had a hypo during the night)
- Before meals. To judge how much insulin to inject.
- Before driving. The DVLA advises not to drive if your bg levels are below 5.
- Before exercise. Exercise ultimately drops your bg levels quicker, so one is more likely to suffer from hypos. This is even more so, if you are low before starting the exercise.
- During illness. The body has to work so much harder to fight off infection, so high bg levels are likely during illness.
- Before bed. Going to bed with a low bg level, could result in a hypo during the night. One in which you may not wake up…
Because I test my bg levels so frequently, I want the reassurance that my blood glucose monitor will give me an accurate result. For months, I have been meaning to compare my meters (I have now acquired 7!). Good news, I have finally had time to do so! The results were very interesting. My initial thought was that there would be some differentiation between the meters. But the results were more surprising than I had thought!
To give some background information. I spent half an hour, one Saturday night, pricking my fingers, a few too many times. My purpose wasn’t to make my fingers incredibly dry and sore (though, this did happen!). My purpose was to see how much variation there was in the numerous blood glucose meters that I own. I did this test on a night in which I wasn’t ill, I had eaten 3 hours before, no exercise prior to the test, and in the comfort of my own bedroom (thus no added stress, in theory). I was wrong in thinking this would be a stress-free experiment…
When I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2011, I was given the Accu-Chek Aviva Nano. This is the meter I have used the most, as I am used to it, and I trust it’s results. Appearance-wise, I like this meter, because it is so compact, and discreet. I haven’t really ever questioned the accuracy of this meter, mainly because I went so long without any other meters.
The result this meter gave me, gave me some comparison to the other meters. As the image above shows, the Aviva Nano gave me a reading of 10.8. I was expecting a result around this scale, as I had had a big dinner, and my quick-acting insulin as still working its magic. Marks out of 10: 9
The next meter that I tested my bg level with, was the Contour Next USB. I was recommended this meter at the Diabetes UK Big Weekend last month. I was told that this was a meter that would enable full analysis of my results. With my bg levels all over the place at the moment, this would be a great opportunity to try to understand what my levels are doing. The result it gave me, was 10.7. Very close to the Aviva Nano.
In the event of my Aviva Nnao not working, for whatever reason, I would happily turn to the Next USB, to give me a seemingly accurate result. Aside from this, this is a relatively easy meter to use, taking into consideration the in-depth analysis that it is capable of. Marks out of 10: 8
I can’t quite remember where I got the Glucomen LX Plus meter. I’ve had it a while, and like the idea of it. It has the capability of testing for ketones. If I remember rightly, I got this meter at a time when I couldn’t get my bg levels lower than 11, so ketones was constantly a worry.
I don’t know if it was just on this Saturday night, the meter wasn’t up to showing off its features, or whether it just stopped working for the fun of it. Numerous attempts later, I wasn’t able to get a blood reading. I tried applying blood numerous times, taking the battery out and replacing it. I almost even resorted to throwing it at my wall. It didn’t work. Therefore, I can’t tell you what reading it would have given me. Needless to say, I don’t use this meter. I’d be interested to know if anyone uses this meter. Is it anyone’s first choice of meter? Marks out of 10: 1
I managed to get hold of the Bayer Contour XT at the Diabetes BIG Event last month. The main attraction of this meter, was the idea that the meter could be personalised. Categorising readings, and showing a range of averages. Looking at the accuracy of blood glucose meters, the reading this meter gave me, was quite different from the Aviva Nano and Contour USB. It told me my bg level was 12.5. Higher than what my usual meter was telling me. Of course, there are all sorts of factors that influence one’s bg level – time of day taken, sugar substance on the fingers etc. However, I washed my hands and tested again. Once again, the meter read 12. It could be that this was my actual bg level, and my Nano was inaccurate.
However, the only way to find out really, is a Continuous Glucose Meter, which would give readings every few minutes, and obtains the reading from the fluid in and around the body’s cells. That of course, requires funding! Marks out of 10: 6
Yet another meter to add to the list of ‘didn’t want to work tonight and risks being thrown at the wall’! Looking at it, the Freestyle Optium is basic and will give you what you want – a bg reading. Shame it didn’t want to work for me, tonight! If it did work, it could have tested for ketones, as well. A potential benefit over the other meters in my test. Oh well. Marks out of 10: 2
The last meter on my list to try out, was the Freestyle InsuLinx. I know a few people who use this as their main meter, so had high hopes. The main benefit for me using this meter, would be the fact that it can calculate and suggest doses of insulin, depending on the amount of carbohydrates about to be consumed. With it being touchscreen, this meter seems fairly up-market, compared to some of the other meters available.
Upon testing, the Insulinx gave me a reading of a solid 13. This was the highest reading given in this test. However, it was also the last meter I tested. Perhaps the blood in my fingers was affected by all the testing I had done? I’m no scientist, so can’t even begin to explain that (feel free to jump in, here…).
I did quite like this meter, but I’m not great at touchscreen phones, so not sure I’d get on with that aspect…Marks out of 10 :7
Before I pricked my fingers for blood, this Saturday night, I already expected some variation in the results that I would get, from my different meters. Looking at the results, there really is quite a difference:
Aviva Nano: BG 10.8
Contour USB: BG 10.7
Contour XT : BG 12.5
InsuLinx Freestyle: 13
Average BG Level: 11.75. Going on from this, the meter that I use most often, gave me a reading lower than this average. Interesting. I have just been given the Aviva Expert, so it will be interesting what levels that meter gives me, in comparison to the Aviva Nano…
I’m really interested to know which meter you use, why you use it, why you like it, and your thoughts on any of the meters that I have tested. I’d also love it even more, if someone else has time on their hands, to compare any meters they have…if you have enough stamina in your fingers! Are you ready? Get set…Go prick your fingers!