Using a blood glucose meter with a finger prick has long been the most common method for checking blood sugar levels. If you’re one of the 30 million Americans who lives with diabetes, you know that testing your blood sugar can be a tedious process. A lancet is used to prick the finger, and a small sample of blood is collected on a test strip. This sample is inserted into the blood glucose meter, or glucometer, for measurement. This process can be repeated up to four or more times a day.
In addition to being a time consuming process, finger pricking can be painful, which in some cases can lead to avoidance of the process. Testing less often means less awareness of blood sugar levels. Some diabetics have found slightly less painful ways to measure blood glucose by pricking the sides of the fingers as opposed to the finger pads, by finding alternate areas of the body to test, or by changing the type of lancets they use. Still, pricking the skin to draw blood has remained an ubiquitous part of the diabetic lifestyle for many years.
Now, advances in diabetes care and technology have provided new, needle-free options to monitor blood glucose levels. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several continuous glucose monitoring systems that don’t rely on finger prick tests. These newer glucose monitoring devices are increasingly prescribed by healthcare providers as an alternative to the traditional blood sugar monitors you may be familiar with. Not only do they eliminate the painful finger prick, but they provide more glucose readings throughout the day. More readings means more informed diabetes management decisions.
How can I monitor my blood sugar without a finger stick?
The first step in ditching the finger prick test is to speak with your healthcare provider about the possibility of switching to a continuous glucose monitor. A continuous glucose monitor, or CGM, relies on interstitial fluid, not blood. A small sensor is placed just under the skin with a cannula. It is still a penetration of the skin, but it is very shallow puncture and a CGM needs to be applied and replaced only every 10-14 days or so. It is usually on the upper arm or belly, continuously monitoring and reporting your blood sugar levels. Held in place with an adhesive patch, you can wear a CGM system while sleeping, showering, or exercising. While it’s sometimes confused with an insulin pump, a CGM is designed to monitor and report glucose levels, not administer insulin.
Your healthcare provider will help determine the best brand for your needs and make sure you are comfortable using your device. Be aware that some CGM systems may require calibration, which means testing your CGM results against the results of, you guessed it, a finger prick test. But this still adds up to a lot less finger pricking and a lot more time back in your day.
How much does a continuous glucose monitor cost?
The price of continuous glucose monitoring varies depending on the brand you get and the features included. Some products are made to use with a dedicated reader, while some can be used in conjunction with a smart device. There are various alerts and other options that can be set as well. Like everything else in the technology space, extra bells and whistles are always available.
If you use insulin and require frequent adjustments to your insulin dosage, private insurance or Medicare may cover the cost of a CGM system. There are different levels of coverage available, depending on your insurance plan, and in addition to a prescription, your plan may require prior authorization.
Aeroflow is here to help when it comes to navigating your plan requirements and we’ll even coordinate with your healthcare provider to make sure your device is covered if you’re eligible. Currently we offer both the FreeStyle Libre products by Abbott Laboratories and the Dexcom G6.
What is the best way to monitor my blood sugar?
As you no doubt know, blood sugar testing is an important tool in the arsenal for individuals with type 1 diabetes, as well as those with type 2 diabetes who take insulin. Doctors will recommend testing your blood sugar levels anywhere from 4-10 times a day, usually before and after meals and snacks, exercise, and more often when you’re ill. Those with type 2 diabetes who don’t take insulin may not need to test blood glucose daily. If you find yourself with sore, calloused fingers, you may talk with your doctor about alternatives to the finger stick test, and you would need to make sure that your blood glucose meter has clear instructions on alternative test sites as well.
For those who may need blood glucose monitoring during the night or have low blood sugar while they sleep or with few symptoms, it’s worth it to have a conversation with your doctor to see whether CGM is right for you.
Information provided on the Aeroflow Diabetes blog is not intended as a substitute to medical advice or care. Aeroflow Diabetes recommends consulting a doctor if you are experiencing medical issues or concerns.