When it comes to management of health conditions such as diabetes, the best glucose meters, also known as glucometers or blood sugar monitors, help you keep an accurate account of your blood glucose levels. Choosing the right glucometer for you starts with how much budget you have, and whether that also needs to cover the cost of test strips. In the past few years alone there have been some much-needed developments with blood sugar monitors, so now you can find devices that read your results aloud, and there’s even smartphone blood glucose meters for enhanced data tracking that can be shared share with a healthcare professional.
Not only do the best glucose meters provide peace of mind by delivering quick and clear readings, they’re vital for helping you avoid any complications that may arise from an ongoing health condition like diabetes, and what action you may need to take in terms of diet and medication. While blood sugar monitors aren’t covered by Medicare Part D plans, the majority of glucometers are covered by Medicare Part B as they're considered to be ‘durable medical equipment’ (DWE).
When rounding up the best glucose meters, we looked at several factors, and chief among those was accuracy. We also considered how well each glucometer captures and displays data, how well it stores results, plus other considerations including portability, and the cost of test strips specific to that device. The majority of the blood sugar monitors featured below use the traditional ‘lancing’ method of blood collection, but there are non-invasive glucometers available too. For example, the Abbott FreeStyle Libre.
Buying one of the best glucose meters is an important part of diabetes management, but you still need to ensure you’re up to date on qualified medical advice. Your doctor or specialist health provider will give you information and support and help you find the right treatment plan. On that note, we have also produced a guide to the best health insurance companies, should you decide to switch providers or need coverage for a more specialized plan.
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The FORA 6 Connect is the newest glucose meter from ForaCare, and it's the best meter the company has put out to date. This is among the few meters on the market that test for both blood glucose levels and ketone levels, and it's currently on offer, saving you $30.View Deal
1. Dario LC Blood Glucose Management System: best glucose meter overall
Best glucose meter overall
Memory: Unlimited | Results: Under six seconds | Sample size: 0.3 microliters | Battery: N/A
The Dario LC Blood Glucose Management System might have a large name but the unit itself manages to cram a lot into a compact package. As such you get a blood glucose meter, lance device and strip holder all in one pocket-friendly device. As if that wasn't innovative enough the Dario LC also comes with a superb app that is downloadable on all the best smartphones, and Bluetooth connectivity, so you can sync and analyze your readings, trends and make notes for a clearer picture. It also means sharing with a doctor is super easy.
The addition of a smart alert, sent to a nominated phone number, when you go hypo, is a great touch as it even includes you GPS location so you're safe if the worst happens. Strips are affordable, very little blood is required, and the result is super accurate - coming through in around six seconds. If the strips were on insurance this would be the perfect device.
2. FORA 6 Connect: best glucose meter for insulin-dependent diabetics
The best glucometer for ketone and glucose testing
Memory: 1,000 results | Results: Five seconds | Sample size: 0.5 microliters | Battery: AAA
The FORA 6 Connect is a very rare breed of meter that is capable of both blood glucose readings as well as ketone levels. This is done with two separate types of strip, each gold based, and super accurate. Using the port light and eject button, readings are very easy to take and the data is clearly shown on the backlit display.
This is automatically backed up, via Bluetooth, to the smartphone app which shows averages and more in clear colors charts and graphs, which can be easily shared. So, in short, this does it all and with a free carry case thrown in for good measure. It has a five second read time, which is better than our top pick, but takes a larger blood sample.
- Read our Fora 6 Connect review
3. Contour Next One: best smartphone blood glucose meter
This blood sugar monitor has its own smartphone app
Memory: 800 | Results: Five seconds | Sample size: 0.6 microliters | Battery: CR2032
The Ascensia Contour Next One is a very smart meter that connects to an extremely capable smartphone app. The result is a meter that looks sleek, is small and pocket-friendly but offers a display and button controls for instant data. The port light is useful and the multi-colored light shows result status quickly even without needing to look at the exact number.
The Bluetooth connected app lets you see trends and averages over up to 90 days all with notes made along the way, like diet, exercise and medication. This all means you can not only see patterns but the causes of those patterns, allowing you to better manage your blood glucose in the future.
Smart alerts can also be set to help check levels at times you see as important. Plus you can easily share data from the app and, soon, with Glooko too. The fact that strips allow you a second chance, if not full enough initially, is a great touch which can save you on strips to make sure you get a good result every time.
- Read our Ascensia Contour Next One review
4. Accu-Chek Guide: best glucose meter for accuracy
The best glucometer for accuracy and test strip management
Memory: 720 | Results: Four seconds | Sample size: 0.6 microliters | Battery: Two CR2032
The Accu-Chek Guide is a smart glucometer from a company that prides itself on accuracy. As such results from this meter are super accurate with a sample size of 0.6 microliters. It's the strips that really make this stand out as they are kept in a non-spill container that can be tipped upside down and still be held in place. When removed, the strip is easy to use with bright yellow sides and a clear blood icon to show where to deposit. All this combined with the meter's port light and eject button make sampling super simple and effective.
The meter is Bluetooth connected to a smartphone app called mySugr so you can analyze trends and make improvements as well as share data like CSV reports with doctors. The app also allows for blood sugar reminders, photo uploads and smart searches when you pay for the Pro version.
- Read our Accu-Chek Guide review
5. CareTouch Blood Glucose Monitoring System: best for affordability
An affordable blood sugar monitor with a five-second read time
Memory: 300 | Results: Five seconds | Sample size: 0.6 microliters | Battery: CR2032
The CareTouch Blood Glucose Monitoring System is an affordable way to keep track of your levels quickly and simply. That low price and simplicity mean this is ideal for anyone new to blood glucose monitoring or for those that don't like too much data. Yup, there's no app support here, although you do get a 14 day average on the monitor to help give you an overview of your progress. You can sync to a PC if you want more analysis too, and you'll need to for long-term storage as the meter only holds 300 results.
Test results are quick, in under five seconds, and the sample size is relatively low at 0.5 microliters. The eject button, no coding and great accuracy all make monitoring super simple and easy. The lack of app and port light is a shame but for the price it's hard to complain.
6. Abbott FreeStyle Libre: best glucose meter for non-invasive testing
This the glucometer we'd recommend for pain-free blood sugar testing
Memory: Unlimited | Results: Instant | Sample size: None needed | Battery: 14 days
The Abbott FreeStyle Libre is a non-invasive and pain-free way to get your blood-glucose levels. Using a patch that sticks to your arm for two weeks at a time you can monitor your glucose using an app on your smartphone. With an add-on you can even have constant monitoring with alerts if you're heading for a high or a low, making this a very rare, full CGM offering.
Accuracy is high but this isn't approved for driving, so you'll still need your fingerstick model as a back-up if you want to know you're driving legally. That said, the app is so informative you should be able to know your levels before they happen with a genuine chance to lower your A1C using this monitor. With the possibility of a prescription Freestlye Libre, this could end up saving you lots of money as well as pain.
- Read our Abbott FreeStyle Libre review
7. True Metrix: best glucometer for quick testing speed
One of the fastest blood sugar monitors on test
Memory: 500 | Results: Four seconds | Sample size: 0.5 microliters | Battery: CR2032
The True Metrix blood glucose meter is a very simple and minimally designed device which, as a result, offers some of the fastest testing times you can hope for. The unit itself is able to return a result in under four seconds. With a small 0.5 microlitre sample even lancing is quick and easy with this meter. The triple sense strips ensure, despite speed, you get excellent accuracy with your results.
Since this is all about efficiency there are very few extras meaning no app support, you'll need to output to a PC via USB for deeper analysis and data sharing. But you can log notes with your readings thanks to clear icons on the display that let you tag a reading with things like Before/After Meal, Exercise, Sick, Medication and Other.
- Read our True Metrix review
8. Prodigy Voice: best glucose meter for spoken results
This glucometer will read your test results aloud to you
Memory: 450 | Results: Seven seconds | Sample size: 0.7 microliters | Battery: AAA
The Prodigy Voice, as the name suggests, is all about speaking, as this meter will read out your blood glucose results to you. That makes it ideal for those with vision issues or anyone with dyslexia. While there is still a screen with large fonts, it is the speaking that makes this unique. The addition of a button to repeat the last thing said is a really nice feature to leave the user always feeling in control.
The buttons are raised with indentations so they can be felt without the need to see them. There are dedicated volume controls and a headphone port in case you want to use the device discreetly. Average readings can be read out on the device while linking to a PC is also an option for data transfer - ideal for those that want to print and share with their doctor.
- Read our Prodigy Voice review
9. OneTouch Verio Flex: best for battery life
Uses a color-coded display for quick, at-a-glance results
Memory: 500 | Results: Five seconds | Sample size: 0.4 microliters | Battery: CR2032
The OneTouch Verio Flex is an excellent system that uses a three color-coded display for quick at-a-glance results. While the unit itself doesn't offer a light or averages on screen it is backed by an app. As a a result the battery life is kept as long as possible on the unit even with Bluetooth data sync to the OneTouch Reveal app.
The iPhone and Android friendly app lets you see patterns and averages, track events and view in a calendar form so you can see everything clearly. Sharing is then super simple and you can set insulin reminders if you need.
Sampling requires very little blood and accuracy is excellent making this very portable unit appealing, although sample strips are not cheap. That said the strips are covered by most insurance companies.
- Read our OneTouch Verio Flex review
How to choose the best glucose meter for you
A bad glucometer can profoundly affect your life, which is why we emphasize the need to talk to your doctor about what type of glucometer is best for you. Don't just take our word for it.
Before a blood glucose meter reaches the market, it must receive FDA approval. The process involves manufacturers submitting reports to the FDA showing the glucometer's accuracy is within 15% of lab-tested glucose levels in 95% of the readings, and within 20 percent in 99 percent of the readings. Unfortunately, just because a glucometer receives FDA approval doesn’t mean your readings are also as accurate. In fact, independent tests performed by the Diabetes Technology Society suggests many glucometers failed to reach FDA standards even after receiving approval.
With this in mind, we developed a simple range-based test based on the FDA requirements to evaluate the comparative accuracy of the glucometers we reviewed to find the best options for you.
Glucometers vary quite a lot with concern to features and cost, which means it can be easy to choose the wrong one. Kristen Scheney, a nutritionist for CCS Medical, recommends not using price as an indication of quality. She says, "just because one glucometer is more expensive than another does not mean that it will be more accurate. Moreover, just because a device includes more features than another does not mean that it is the device for you. Sometimes simple is the best way to go to ensure you’re getting exactly what you need out of your glucometer."
How we found the best blood glucose meters
Testing glucose meters for accuracy is not without difficulty, and shouldn't be viewed without skepticism. At best, you should view the grades as an anecdotal evaluation of performance. But the logic behind the test is simple - if the meters meet FDA requirements, each should produce similar readings on the same blood sample. If a glucometer’s reading in a round, falls beyond the 15% range determined by the average, we flagged it as being more likely to fail FDA requirements. The grades aren’t representative of the meter’s true accuracy. Such conclusive tests can only be done by sending blood samples to a lab.
After making sure every glucometer was calibrated according to its instruction manual, we started each round of tests by washing our hands. This is important because dirt and other contaminants can cause a reading to be inaccurate. Once our hands were dry (also important because water can dilute the blood sample and produce an inaccurate reading), we used the deepest setting on a lancet to puncture one of our fingers and create a drop of blood from which we could test all meters.
Usually, when you touch the end of a test strip to a drop of blood, the strip drinks up the necessary amount like a paper towel soaking up water, but sometimes it doesn't because the strip is faulty. In some cases, the strip seems to drink it up, but the meter produces an error message that there wasn't enough blood. We made a note of these failed strips, then tested the meter with another one. Some strips are more prone to failure than others.
In each round of tests, we averaged all results. We then calculated an acceptable range of accuracy with the maximum set at 15% above that average and the minimum at 15% below it, similar to the FDA requirements. For example, if one round of tests produced an average reading of 108 mg/dL, then the acceptable range for accuracy would be 92 to 124 mg/dL.
Glucose meter data management and connectivity
We asked Angelica Khachaturova, an EVP with GlucoMe (which currently has a glucometer in the final stages of the FDA-approval process), what she sees as the most common mistake people make when choosing a glucometer. She said they often don’t pay enough attention to data management systems and the way glucometers connect to those systems.
Since diabetes is a chronic disease without a cure, people need a good data management system that provides them and their doctor with the relevant information to best treat the disease and minimize long-term health effects. She explained that "today's glucose monitor manufacturers are developing different features to solve the connectivity issue. So, it is highly recommended to check how the monitor transfers the data and its usability for this particular patient."
Using an app also makes it easy to add notes to readings from your phone just moments after testing your blood, which makes for more accurate records. You don’t need to worry about a cord or having to enter notes for readings directly into the glucometer, which isn’t easy to do and may discourage you from writing important things like "ate an apple" next to a reading. However, Bluetooth has connectivity challenges as well. Bluetooth-enabled glucose meters aren't always so easy to pair to your phone.
How much do blood glucose test strips cost?
Two very important aspects of buying a glucometer are the cost and availability of the test strips. Test strips are the most expensive part of using a glucometer. Just because you chose a $20 over a $50 glucometer doesn't mean you picked the most affordable option. If the test strips of the cheaper meter cost $1.50 and the strips on the expensive meter cost $0.50, the long-term costs make the cheaper meter far more expensive. In addition, you have to consider availability. If you're not on top of how many strips you have and you run out, you have to run into a pharmacy to find strips. But if you choose a meter with test strips lacking in distribution, you won't find it. Some test strips have to be ordered online, which aren't ideal for emergencies.
Since you can’t get cheap off-brand test strips, you have to consider the long-term costs and price fluctuations. When we reviewed glucometers in 2017, the lowest average cost for the cheapest test strip on the market was $0.12 per strip, while the most expensive test strip was $2.06 per strip. But in early 2018, the cheapest test strip averaged around $0.23 per test strip while the most expensive averaged $1.22 per strip. The difference in cost is extraordinary when applied to a year of using the meter, especially if you frequently test your glucose levels.
One explanation for the change in test strip costs is the fluctuating value of gold. Most test strips are made with a circuitry of gold, due to its superior conductivity, so as the value of gold moves, so do the manufacturing costs.
Another explanation is shown by Daniel Jennings in “Is Insurance Driving Up Healthcare Cost?” It's the ever-changing ways health insurers cover, or don't cover, glucose meters. One way to save yourself from fluctuating prices is to sign up for a test-strip subscription. These subscription-based programs are becoming more popular, allowing you to pay a flat fee for test strips each month.
Do glucose meters expire?
Glucometers wear out over time and should be renewed every two years to ensure accurate and reliable results. If you are concerned that your glucometer isn't working well anymore then you can run tests with a control safety solution to see how accurate the results are.
Control Solutions are readily available and should be used when you think your glucose meter is not accurate. For improved accuracy make sure you use control solution if you think your glucometer may have been damaged, if results are unusually high or low or when opening a new pack of test strips. It also worth taking your glucometer with you when you visit your doctor for a blood sugar test. Take a reading with your monitor at the same time. If the results are within 15% of the lab results then you should consider your glucose meter accurate.
Are blood glucose meters covered by insurance and Medicare?
You don’t need a prescription to purchase glucometers, test strips or lancets. These are all over-the-counter products. However, since the long-term costs can be high, many insurance plans cover the meters and the test strips. While co-pays and coverage may vary, you should contact your insurance provider and talk to your doctor about what brands are covered under your insurance plan.
The one downside to using insurance to offset some of the costs is your plan often dictates which brand you can use. This is one of the most common complaints among diabetics because too often the only glucometer brands approved by their insurance providers have very expensive test strips.
Medicare Part B covers some diabetic supplies, including test strips, with a 20-percent Medicare-approved co-pay. However, this only applies if your physician and pharmacy are enrolled with Medicare.
Gestational diabetes: why pregnant women should use glucometers
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gestational diabetes occurs in up to 10% of pregnancies. While its exact cause is unknown, doctors believe hormones play a role, particularly hormones that increase insulin resistance. As such, having gestational diabetes doesn't mean you had Type 2 diabetes before you got pregnant or that you’ll have it after you give birth. However, you’re at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes after your pregnancy if you don’t manage your gestational diabetes well. But even more troubling is that it can have a big impact on your baby’s development.
In "When Blood Sugar Rises in Pregnancy, Mom and Baby Pay the Price," Steven Reinberg, a reporter for HealthDay, argues the importance of staying on top of your blood glucose levels while pregnant. He points out that in addition to putting the mother at a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes post-pregnancy, prolonged high glucose levels put infants at risk of developing complications, both before and after birth.
In fact, studies have shown elevated glucose levels in developing infants can affect organ development and cause the body to handle food differently. As a result, these infants are at a higher risk of obesity as well as 11% more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes and 42% more likely to have pre-diabetes by their teenage years.
The good news is you can minimize the risk of complications and long-term health issues for both you and baby. First, buy a blood glucose meter and check your blood sugar levels before and after meals to gauge how your body responds to the food you eat. If your glucose levels are high, especially before you eat, you should consult with a doctor to get on a health management plan specifically for gestational diabetes.
Helping your child cope with Type 2 Diabetes
In an article published by Diabetesforecast.org, Barbara Brody addresses the tricky issues parents often face when a child is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. She shares the story of a mother with a recently diagnosed 5-year-old child and the anxiety she’s faced in learning how to help her child cope with his diagnosis. The mother poses the question: how does a parent get their child to take their health seriously without frightening them or giving them body-image issues?
Barbara Brody shares 6 tips for helping your child cope with their type 2 diabetes:
- End the Blame Game: Type 2 diabetes is caused by both genetics and environmental factors. Don’t focus on what caused it, focus on what needs to be done to manage it. And be careful not to criticize high glucose readings, as this could lead the child to not being honest for fear of criticism.
- Set Limits (within reason): You need to set limits to help them eat healthier, like having no soda in the home. But be careful to not go overboard, as being too strict often backfires.
- Don’t make kids do it alone: Choose to live healthier with your child. Eating the same food and exercising with your child shows support and is also good for you.
- Take baby steps: Learning to make healthy lifestyle choices doesn’t happen overnight. You need to focus on taking small steps. Small victories lead to big ones.
- Talk about the tough stuff: Emphasize to your kid that they are a person who happens to have type 2 diabetes, similar to a kid who has asthma or a heart condition.
- Enlist extra help: Joining support groups or consulting with mental health professionals shows your child they are not alone.
What is hypoglycemia?
When your blood sugar is low, you experience hypoglycemia. Diabetics are at a high risk for hypoglycemia because of the medications they take to keep their glucose levels down. Since your body either doesn’t produce insulin or doesn’t produce enough insulin, you have to be careful to not let your glucose levels get too high. This means you either take medications or you limit the carbohydrates in your diet. Diabetes is largely a balancing act of trying to keep your glucose from going too high while also making sure it doesn’t get too low.
Typically, any glucose reading below 70 mg/dL is considered low enough to begin immediate treatment for hypoglycemia – getting glucose into your system. Still, it’s important to read your body. Just because your glucometer reads 80 mg/dL, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the clear. If you’re feeling the symptoms of hypoglycemia, you should treat it. Here are some symptoms:
- An irregular heart rhythm
- Pale skin
- Dry mouth and throat
- Tingling sensation around the mouth
- Crying out during sleep
Severe hypoglycemia results in confusion, abnormal behavior, visual disturbances, seizures and, ultimately, unconsciousness.
Diabetic complications: a glossary of terms
While diabetes itself is a problem with your body’s ability to produce insulin to regulate glucose, it comes with complications that affect other aspects of your life. In this way, diabetes is a disease of complications.
The good news, according to DiabetesForecast.org, is most complications are preventable if you know what to do and you’re careful about controlling your blood glucose through diet and exercise.
Microvascular: These conditions are caused by damage to the small blood vessels, and they affect the eyes, nerves and kidneys.
Macrovascular: These conditions are caused by damage to the large blood vessels, and they affect the heart and brain.
Diabetic Retinopathy: A microvascular condition affecting the blood vessels in the eyes. Eventually, the condition damages the vessels supplying the retina with blood, causing blindness. This is the leading cause of blindness in the U.S., with between 12,000 and 24,000 new diagnoses per year.
Peripheral Neuropathy: A condition that affects the nerves in the feet, legs, hands and arms. It starts as a tingling feeling, similar to what it feels like when your leg falls asleep. However, it progresses to a numbness and burning sensation. This condition affects around 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. While you’re at a higher risk of neuropathy the longer you’ve had diabetes, even the newly diagnosed can experience it. Often, neuropathy requires amputation.
Autonomic Neuropathy: Similar to peripheral neuropathy but less common, autonomic neuropathy affects the blood vessels in the heart, digestive system, sweat glands, sex organs, urinary tract, eyes, feet and lungs.
Nephropathy: A type of disease caused by damage to the blood vessels in the kidneys, which makes them unable to filter waste from the body. Severe cases result in failed kidneys and require dialysis or a kidney transplant.
Resources for people with diabetes
Diabetes.org: The American Diabetes Association is the online authority on diabetes. If you or a loved one have diabetes, becoming a member is a great idea. The association is devoted to education, prevention, community and meal planning.
Diabetes Forecast: A partner of The Healthy Living Magazine, this resource includes consumer guides on diabetes products and medicines, as well as recipes and tips for taking care of the psychological impacts of living with diabetes.
diaTribe: Excellent resource for finding the latest academic studies on diabetes and clinical trials currently underway, including how you might be able to take part in the trials.
DiabeticGourmet: A website and magazine of diabetic-friendly recipes, diet tips and resources. You can register for free and keep track of your favorite recipes, connect with others on a forum, and receive tips for better management.
Diabetes Food Hub: A partner of the American Diabetes Association, this website is devoted to providing diabetic-friendly recipes and meal planning.
Beyond Type 1: A community of over 2 million people in over 150 countries. This website features programs, stories and news on Type 1 diabetes.
John Hopkins Patient Guide to Diabetes: One of the most comprehensive online resources for diabetes articles, news, terminology, treatments and tools.
Six Until Me: A popular blog-style website created by Kerri Morrone Sparling where she shares inspiring essays and stories about her life with diabetes. She includes interviews with experts and advocates for products and diets that work for her.
Diabetes Monitor: A comprehensive collection of articles and information related to Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The site connects you to experts and to a community called the Diabetes Collective.
Diabetes Exercise News & Organization: A resource for exercise-related articles to help with home-monitoring, recognizing symptoms and managing complications.
Diabetes Daily: A daily home for news, tips, articles, guides and stories about people living with diabetes.
Diabetes Training Camp: A non-profit foundation devoted to week-long and weekend camps designed to inspire, motivate, and educate people with diabetes so they can thrive.
Looking for other products to help you stay as healthy as possible? We have rounded up the best digital thermometers to help you check if you have a fever, plus the best Medicare Part D plans to cater for your health insurance needs. If you want to exercise at home and enhance your overall health, learn about the best home gyms and the best treadmills.