Look at a diabetic’s hands. You will see hundreds of little brown dots, each representing one pinprick from a blood glucose test. With the ease of which diabetics get infections, these finger sticks can turn into an amputated hand if an infection is left untreated.

Finger sticks are a part of a diabetics life, but researchers are developing different devices designed to take the ‘ouch’ out of them. Today no one needs to suffer horrible finger sticks.

* Programmable lancets: The lancet that came with your glucose monitor might be a monster, but you can purchase other lancets that are gentle as a teddy bear. They can be set for different depths, which accommodates different skin thicknesses. They usually have about 10 settings and usually cost about $25. Even better news is that some insurances pay for them.

* Other Area Lancets: These lancets are designed to be used on the thigh, abdomen or palm. It works best with capillary action test strips and can help those whose fingers just can’t take it anymore. These lancets are also about $25 and may be covered by insurance.

* Needle Free Laser Devices: These eliminate the lancet all together and use a laser beam to vaporize a tiny pinpoint of skin. There may still be some discomfort, but users claim it is minimized and there is less chance of infection. The home-use models cost about $1,000.

* New Glucose Monitors: These monitors have built-in blood sampling devices that take blood from areas other than the fingers. They require smaller blood samples than the typical lancet-based monitor and they cost around $70. These new monitors have inspired home-glucose testing systems to work to improve the speed of the results they give, anywhere from 20 seconds to 1 1/2 minutes and to use smaller drops of blood.

* Glucowatch Biographer: This amazing glucose monitor is worn like a watch. It detects blood glucose levels through your skin. Testers claimed to feel the Glucowatch zeroing in on a small area of the skin, but reported no discomfort. While not yet fully approved, it is expected that final approval from the FDA will arrive sometime this year.

The Glucowatch takes readings every 20 minutes. It works by using small electrical currents that open the skin and draw fluid to a special sensor pad on the back of the Glucowatch. If your levels become too high or too low an alarm sounds.

Unfortunately, you still need to do finger sticks every 12 hours to calibrate the monitor on the Glucowatch. Another drawback is the price, which is about $300 for the device and $4 per sensor pad, which are changed every 12 hours. It may be some time before insurances pick up the cost, if at all.

The future also holds some interesting testing options. One involves a patch that changes color as it draws glucose through the skin. Wearing the patch on the forearm for several minutes does this. The results are read with a portable meter.

The ultimate future may also hold a sensor that is placed under your chest skin. This measures your blood sugar and transmits the info to a pager-type device.

Mini-med pumps are currently testing just such a sensor as a part of their infusion pump systems. This one reads your glucose continuously.

They also are testing a special sensor that is inserted just under the skin, reads your blood glucose levels for 72 hours and then is removed and downloaded at your doctor’s office. This allows him to see what parts of the day are problems, and combined with a food diary will help dieticians know what dietary tweaking might be needed.

So if your fingers look like they have a bad case of acne, or you just want some freedom from a lifetime of punctures, look into available options. Or hang in there till technology catches up with your dreams.