Living with diabetes blog

Still pricking your finger for blood glucose monitoring?

By Nancy Klobassa Davidson, R.N. and Peggy Moreland, R.N., C.D.E. May 24, 2013

And we still have to prick our fingers. How many years have we been hearing about the potential for devices that will eliminate the pain involved with pricking a finger for blood glucose monitoring?

About 15 years ago, I was at an American Association of Diabetes Educators conference and tried a laser lancing device. What I remember most was that it hurt a lot. It bore a small hole into the skin of my fingertip. It worked like a drill. I could see skin and smoke flying around while it was running. I saw a pit in my finger for a number of days afterward. Needless to say, this was not a market success.

People frequently tell me they want the meter they saw on a TV commercial that doesn't require you to prick your finger. The ads refer to alternative site testing, which doesn't involve your finger. But you still have to prick something such as a forearm, upper arm or thigh. Alternative site testing may be an option, but it has its drawbacks, too, so discuss these with your diabetes educator.

Pricking your finger multiple times a day is painful, time consuming, can cause calluses and sensitive fingers, and is difficult if you have visual or dexterity limitations. As a result, negative perceptions about blood glucose monitoring can develop, which can lead to avoidance of monitoring or limited monitoring. My question is, why after all these years do we still have to prick our fingers for a blood sample?

There seems to be limited research available on pain associated with blood glucose monitoring. Most of the publications about lancing devices are done by companies that manufacture lancing devices. They've improved significantly over the years and, as advertised by some meter companies, are "almost painless."

Some alternative approaches include near infrared spectroscopy, which measures glucose through the skin using varied light waves; transdermal measurements that pull glucose through the skin using chemicals, electricity or ultrasound; and measuring polarized light in the aqueous humor of the eye. Other interesting approaches being investigated are an implantable titanium sensor, glucose sensing tattoos and testing tears. Any new method will need to be as precise and reliable as measuring glucose in a drop of blood and also requires Food and Drug Administration approval.

The hope for those who must monitor blood glucose readings is that a new method will be developed that's safe, accurate and non-invasive. Finding a cure for diabetes would be even better.

Regards and have a great week,


May 24, 2013