I have Type 2 diabetes. My body doesn't produce enough insulin to be able to regulate my blood glucose level. High levels of glucose in the blood can have long term damaging effects, increasing the likelihood of heart disease and strokes. It can lead to nerve damage, especially in the feet and hands and damage to the blood cells in the eye can lead to loss of sight. These days, our wonderful health system is quick to spot and to monitor diabetes. My local GP practice has a doctor who leads on diabetes; I have regular monitoring sessions with a practice nurse and yearly checks with a podiatrist as well as a retinopathy screening test where I have pictures taken of my eyes (yes, I'm an eye model). In addition to all this I take tablets (metformin) to help my body make best use of the insulin that I do produce. All this is fine and in general terms I know that my sugar levels have been kept under control. However, what can happen is that when the body comes under stress, such as during a period of illness, blood sugar levels can shoot up or down, even with medication. In these circumstances it is useful to be able to check the amount of glucose for yourself. This is where the Accu-Chek Compact Plus monitoring system comes in. ************ How It Works ************ The Compact Plus looks rather like a mobile phone and comes in a wallet that has a little zip pocket for holding spare lancets. On the side of the machine is something that looks like a click-top pen, where the removable "nib" is the lancet (needle) which you will use to get your blood sample. This finger pricker can be undocked, if you prefer to use it that way. Inside the machine, below the display window, is stored a drum of 17 test strips. At the back is the battery compartment. It takes two AAA batteries and the Compact Plus come with batteries supplied.. To use it, you check that you have a fresh lancet installed and adjust the bottom of the finger pricker to give you the depth of prick you think you'll need (some of us are thick-skinned). Switch on the machine and a test strip will automatically come out at the bottom. Click once on the pricker to prime the lancet and then again with it pressed against the side of your finger to draw blood. Hold your bloody finger against the protruding test strip so that the blood is drawn up. The display window will show a timer and then within seconds it will give you a reading in mmol/L (millimoles per litre) which is the measurement usually used in the UK and Ireland. What the reading should be is something you should discuss with your healthcare professional, along with any other issues to do with level settings and interpretation of data. When you've done, the test strip will automatically eject when you switch off the machine. The lancet can also be ejected by removing the base of the finger pricker and pressing down on the plunger once more. ************* Extra Features ************* The machine allows you to save your results and as long as you have set the time and date it will work out average readings for you for the past 7, 14 or 30 days. The machine will save up to 500 results automatically. You can also ask it to tell you the highest and lowest readings in a given period. You can set a hypo alarm, so that if the reading is below your pre-set level, the machine will show a visual indication and bleep at you. There is an infra red window on the machine so that, if you have the software, you can download your results to a computer for further evaluation. The display will tell you when the batteries are low, how many test strips you have left and even warn you if the test strips are out of date. It is a very clever little machine with lots that it can do and it comes with a comprehensive manual, as well as a quick use guide. ***** COST ***** I was lucky enough to get my Compact Plus for free, but at around £20.00, I think it is very reasonably priced for the amount of functionality it gives you. Currently you can buy a drum of test strips for £6.89 from Boots, while 200 lancets would set you back £12.16 from Chemist Direct. Do check with your doctor, however, as you may be able to get the test strips and lancets on prescription, which will be worth your while if you get your prescriptions free. ***************** RECOMMENDATION ***************** Although I don't use mine very often I find it reassuring to know it's there, and if ever there is a reason why my blood glucose levels might be moving up and down more than usual, this is a very useful aid for staying on top of the situation, allowing me to feed back information to my healthcare professional to help make decisions about treatment and further testing. If you're travelling, and possibly your eating and drinking habits are out of routine, it's a handy think to carry with you. I can't see any reason not to give this five stars.