February 25, 2022
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Finding a glucometer that suits your needs is important. After all, it might be your constant companion.
During a routine physical, my blood sugars came back high. Both my A1C and fasting blood sugar levels pointed firmly to type 2 diabetes. After wrestling with the diagnosis for a few weeks, I took a big next step and set off to buy a glucometer.
Glucometers are a lot like the TV remote control. There are lots of buttons, functions, and opportunities for confusion.
The good news is that it’s actually fairly easy to figure out the basics of using them. Once you have your kit together, obtaining a glucose readout is easy.
The not-so-great news? There are so many different glucometers to choose from and it can be difficult to know what to prioritize. Here are the things I learned in my search to buy my first glucometer.
At my local national chain pharmacy, the lines of masked people were long and the overworked pharmacists inaccessible behind plexiglass walls. Getting help seemed unlikely, so I set off into the aisles with my list in hand.
I found lancets and alcohol wipes in short order. I found the glucometers on the back wall, on the bottom three shelves, near the floor. Glucometers come in small boxes with small writing. They ranged in cost from $15 to $45. The names were remarkably similar, Tru-this and Touch-that.
I quickly consulted Google, which led me to a site comparing tested and evaluated glucometers. Unable to match my choices with their recommendations, I instead pulled three different kinds out into the light, then chose something in the middle range, shrugging my shoulders.
A clerk was able to help with test strips, which is when I found out that each machine needs its own strips. There is no universal strip, and each kind of strip has a different price.
So there’s the cost of the machine, and then the cost of the machine’s particular strips. There’s no way of matching and estimating complete costs when the strips are kept behind the counter, where only harried clerks can reach them.
I felt unsure that I was doing it the right way because it seemed illogical and difficult. But I continued. I adjusted my mask and headed to the cashier.
When I got home, I opened the small box and took out the instruction booklet. It was twice the size of the machine itself. A technical assistance phone number was printed in bold letters on the front. I called for help when I kept receiving malfunction messages.
Turns out the clerk sold me the wrong strips. Another trip to the pharmacy and I ended up purchasing matching test strips and a second glucometer so that I had one for home and the other for my work bag.
The first month with a glucometer has been an experiment and there are things I have learned that I didn’t expect and couldn’t predict.
I’m usually old school. I thought that I was going to write my numbers down on paper. And I did for a time. I didn’t want my glucometer to record my readings, nor was I interested in uploading my readouts to my computer.
I also currently don’t need a glucometer that sends information directly to my doctor because, at this moment, my type 2 diabetes is likely to be managed through diet and exercise.
But one day, I accidentally figured out how to store my readings when I mistakenly pushed one of the mysterious buttons. I’ve discovered that it’s actually reassuring to have my readings stored so I can go back and see how my efforts are paying off. It makes me feel like I have a little control.
Knowing how to manage your glucometer readings in a way that will bring you greater control and comfort is important. Some people may need a glucometer that can act as a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and those that can send notifications to your cell phone and readings to your doctor. Others may prefer to keep their readings recorded by hand. Whatever your choice, make sure it works for you.
Turns out my insurance won’t pay for my glucometer or strips. So it is important to consider the costs. As I discovered on my trip to the pharmacy, accounting for test strip costs was very difficult. But don’t be afraid to ask the clerk questions to discover which options will be the most cost effective for you.
I’m also glad that I bought a second glucometer that always lives in my handbag. The extra cost was worth the peace of mind so that I’m able to just grab my bag and head out the door.
Regardless of any prior research I had done, there is some information that I couldn’t access online and needed to discover for myself. For example, I’ve found that I prefer one glucometer over the other, simply because it fits in my hand better. It is this personal preference that is important and is a learning curve for each individual.
Buying a glucometer and figuring out how it worked was stressful. It’s hard to imagine doing this for the rest of my life. But it’s getting easier.
My fingertips are tender, and I’m reminded how complex our bodies are as I learn a new dance. But the glucometer is my constant companion as I figure out this disease. With time, I have figured out exactly which sort of glucometer I need and prefer, and so will you.
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