What are the different types of glucose monitors?

There are about 75 different kinds of glucose monitors. They all do the same essential thing -- they let you measure your blood sugar (glucose) levels at home or when you are traveling. They work by analyzing a pinprick of blood that you put on a special strip and feed into the machine.

All glucose meters in the United States report the results in milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood (mg/dL). They differ in the amount of blood needed for each test, ease of use, pain associated with use, accuracy, testing speed, size, ability to store results in memory, cost of the meter, cost of the strips, special features and technical support from the manufacturer. To find a good one, start by asking your doctor for a recommendation.
Dr. Jack Merendino, MD
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism
There are a few ways to answer this question, depending on whether you are trying to be technical about how glucose is measured in the blood, etc., but for the most part that’s not important.  From a practical standpoint, there are two very different kinds of glucose monitors.  The commonly used glucose monitors, which we usually just call “glucose meters” give a one-time measurement of blood sugar by using a drop of blood obtained by pricking your skin and applied to a single-use test strip.  This is what the vast majority of people with diabetes use to monitor their blood sugar levels. 

A steadily growing number of people, most of them having type 1 diabetes, use a very different kind of system that monitors blood sugar levels continuously throughout the day.  These are called, appropriately, “continuous glucose monitors” or “CGMs.”  With a CGM, a small plastic catheter, a little like a tiny IV line, pierces the skin and monitors glucose levels not from the blood, but from the fluid surrounding fat cells under the skin.  The devices give a glucose reading every 5 minutes and indicate whether your sugar levels are rising or falling.  They typically have auditory and/or vibratory alarms for high or low blood sugars.  These systems are extremely helpful for people whose blood sugar levels fluctuate a great deal and for people who have difficulty sensing low blood sugar levels.
The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes

More About this Book

The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes

Bob Greene has helped millions of Americans become fit and healthy with his life-changing Best Life plan. Now, for the first time, Oprah's trusted expert on diet and fitness teams up with a leading...

Continue Learning about Diabetes

Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.
More

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.