Meters Beware! Is my number 80, 120, or somewhere in between?

I trust the results my blood glucose meter gives me.  But, is that trust misplaced?  Read on.  (There is no endorsement of any product stated or implied – it’s just a picture.)

During the past few days I have been looking into blood glucose meters.  Different brands, etc.  And I discovered some very surprising and ultimately troubling issues around almost every meter.  Why would I do this?  Well, several things happened in the last couple of weeks that I thought I’d share with you since I don’t believe in coincidence.

As diabetics we rely on our meters to tell us how we are doing.  That number we get, whether it’s 75, 95, 105, 145…or whatever, tell us exactly how we are doing.  Some adjust their diets or insulin injections based on those numbers.  We trust those numbers; we trust that our meters are accurate.  Is that trust misplaced.

Let me tell you what happened.

First, there was a reader who discovered that their blood glucose meter was not accurate.   Her meter was giving her a reading of about 145 two hours after eating; another test administered by a health care professional using a different meter give her a reading of about 75 after a small breakfast.  My advice was to contact the manufacturer and get a new meter.  There was no way to know which meter was not functioning correctly, and it’s still my advice.  I also suggested that the calibration solution which came with the meter be used to see if the meter was within specification.

The second thing that happened was a question from one of Dr. K’s patients at her pharmacy about non-invasive glucose testing.  I had not heard about those, so after a bit of research I learned that they have been in development and testing for about five years.

Then the surprise when I researched accuracy.

Our meters, the ones we literally give out blood to several times a day to help us make decisions on medication, diet and managing Diabetes have an error factor of +/- 20%.  That’s huge.  Plus of minus 20%!  Let me put that into perspective for you.  Say you get a reading of 100.  Well, it might not really be 100, your true glucose level can be anywhere between 80 (great) and 120 (not so great).  That’s a 40 point swing that takes you from ‘normal’ to Diabetes.  You can get a good sense of what is going on here.

Who said these meters could have an error margin of 20%?  Our good friends at the Food and Drug Administration.  AKA, the FDA.  Now, before you get as nuts about this as I am, you have to realize producing that number is not an easy thing; and, producing it fast is kind of a technological marvel.  I don’t know about you, but I get my results in about five seconds.  So, in all fairness to the makers, to fulfill our desire for speed, they have to do a lot of functions in a short period of time.  But, is that the right trade-off?

Would you trade a bit more time for accuracy?  I would.

Is the best we can hope for +/- 8% as the article says?  Perhaps, if all of the variables are really in play.  But, even 8% is a lot closer than the 20% most of us are dealing with today and almost twice as good as the best on the market right now – an error rate of 15%.

Folks, we put a man on the Moon in 1969.  We take submarines to over 1,000 feet under the ocean.  We take submersibles to over a mile deep.  We return again and again to a small space station in a big Space (literally).  These are technological marvels; wonderful and magical.  Why can’t we get meters that are more accurate?

Now, just because blood glucose meters can have an error rate of 20%, does that mean your’s does?  No.  It does mean that the makers have achieved the standard currently in place and have no reason to replace it if it’s off by 20%, though.

Until more accurate meters become more widely distributed the only thing we can do is continue to fight Diabetes.  Fight.  Fight.  Fight.  That’s done through (yes, you guessed it) diet, exercise and meds.  And, regardless of accuracy, you need to test.  At the VERY least you will know if you are up or down in your glucose.

You can fight and win.  You can manage and control Diabetes.  Now, you are just a bit more educated about one of the weapons in your battle.

Watch for an announcement during the next ten days.  It could possibly effect each one of you.

As always, thank you for reading.  I do love hearing from you.


I am not a doctor or health professional. I am just a guy who is working everyday to control Type 2 Diabetes. My goal is to offer hope, help and solutions for day-to-day living for the diabetic. The disease can be controlled. It can be managed. And, you can do it!

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