What are Glucometers & How do they Work?

What are Glucometers & How do they Work?

People suffering from diabetes are well aware of the small mobile phone like device which they use to check their blood glucose levels. If you have someone in your family who is a diabetic, chances are that you’ll have already seen the device. But, have you ever wondered how this device works? How can this small device tell your blood glucose value accurately?

Most diabetic persons think that these blood glucometer, also known as glucose monitors are inaccurate. Many healthcare workers also think that these glucometers can only be used to produce an approximate blood glucose value and that the results obtained cannot be relied upon for proper management of diabetes. However, this is not the current scenario. The modern day glucometers are so powerful that they are used even in speciality hospitals to get quick and accurate blood glucose results. Now, this article is about the evolution of glucometers and how they have become a routine part of every person suffering from diabetes.

Also Read ; What is Diabetes? & What are the blood tests in diabetes?

What is a Glucometer?

A glucometer is a hand-held electric device operated by batteries with a display and a slot to insert particular “test strips”. When used properly, a glucometer gives the blood glucose value. Previously it was used primarily by persons suffering from Type-1 diabetes, but now it’s used by Type-2 diabetes patients as well. To learn more about the different types of diabetes, it’s symptoms, complications, treatment and prevention please click here.

Whatever type of  diabetes you’re suffering from, keeping the blood glucose value within the target normal range is the goal in treating diabetes. This can be achieved only by repeatedly testing your blood glucose levels at your home, office or wherever you go. This is where a glucometer comes into play.

Here is a helpful video that illustrates how to use an Accu-Chek Active glucometer.

Uses of a Glucometer

To better understand the uses of a glucometer, consider the following instances:

  1. You’re a diabetic person taking Insulin injections daily. One night, while sleeping you wake up with pounding heart beats, profuse sweating and generalised weakness. You don’t know whether your blood glucose level is high or low. Because, if it’s high you’ll need to take an extra shot of Insulin (which lowers glucose levels) and if it’s low, you’ll have to eat a candy or some sugar to save your life.
  2. You’re a diabetic and your doctor had advised you to check both fasting and post-prandial (after meal) blood glucose level every day for the next two weeks. Unfortunately, you’re living at a locality where a medical laboratory is not easily accessible!
  3. You have someone in your home who is diabetic as well as bed-ridden.
  4. Your wife who is 22 weeks pregnant, has just been diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
  5. You’ve been a diabetic for the past 10 years and is already suffering from poor vision due to diabetic retinopathy and do not want to take risk with yet another complication of diabetes.

If you’ve decided to buy a glucometer now, here is a simple article to help you choose the right one for you. We have written so many review articles on glucometers at BeingTheDoctor, and you can find them all here.

Check out the different glucometers available on Amazon [easyazon_link keywords=”glucose meter” locale=”IN” localize=”y” tag=”beithedoc-21″]here[/easyazon_link].

Also Read : Top 5 Blood Glucose Meters in India

How does a Glucometer work?

This section requires some basic knowledge in chemistry to properly understand the principles on which a glucometer works. Let’s try that in simple english.

Glucose oxidase is an enzyme that oxidises glucose and it is the main content in the glucometer test strips. When it reacts with glucose in the blood droplet (obtained by finger pricking method) an electrical signal is produced at the electrode interface.

The strength of the electrical signal is directly proportional to the amount of glucose in the blood sample. That means, higher the strength of the electrical signals, higher is the glucose concentration and vice versa. The glucometer is calibrated in such a way so as to display the strength of these electrical signals.

Older meters used glucose dehydrogenase enzyme which was more sensitive than the glucose oxidase strips.

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The Future of Glucometers

Every time you need a glucose value, you’ll have to prick your body to obtain the blood sample. That by all means is a painful procedure irrespective of the quality of the lancing device used. Researchers have been trying to find a non-invasive technique to measure the blood glucose levels for several years now and many ideas have surfaced. Unfortunately, none of the non-invasive techniques are currently available in the market right now.

New innovations for glucose monitoring are based on the type of sample used for the testing. In case of a standard glucometer, whole blood is the sample type used. Based on the other types of samples used for testing, there are newer generations of glucometers available in the market. For example,

Continuos Glucose Monitoring System (CGMS) uses interstitial fluid as the test sample. A subcutaneous or hypodermic probe implanted in our body is connected to a transmitter which sends continuous glucose levels to a receiver. Depending on the type of the CGMS, the probes, transmitters and receivers vary. In a particular type (Dexcom G5) of CGMS, the [easyazon_link keywords=”Apple iPhone” locale=”IN” localize=”y” tag=”beithedoc-21″]Apple iPhone[/easyazon_link] can act as the receiver connecting to the transmitter via Bluetooth. CGMS is a vast topic by itself and deserves a separate post.

“Glugaphones” are fast becoming the interest point of cellular phone manufacturers around the world. The idea of integrating a glucometer into a mobile phone is currently available only with the[easyazon_link keywords=”iPhone” locale=”IN” localize=”y” tag=”beithedoc-21″]iPhone[/easyazon_link], [easyazon_link keywords=”Motorola Razr” locale=”IN” localize=”y” tag=”beithedoc-21″]Moto Razr[/easyazon_link] and three LG models (UX5000, VX5200 & LX350).

In 2014, Google has reported the testing of a prototype contact lens which measures the glucose value and alerts the wearer when it crosses the maximum limit.

Yet another research is being carried out to use nano tubes skin implants filled with a special ink which changes colour when exposed to infrared light that corresponds to one’s glucose value.

Considering the above advances, we can soon expect a non invasive blood glucose monitoring system in the near future.

So, what do you think about this article? Do you have any more interesting facts to cover about glucometers? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.


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