Tiny glucose test strips have a big impact on diabetes management
The blood glucose meter is a first line of defense against diabetes, but that glucose meter can't work without test strips. You already know that a drop of blood on a test strip can provide you with a blood sugar result in a matter of seconds. But how does it work? Is one test strip just as good as another? Let's unravel a few of the mysteries of these tiny little diagnostic tools.
Understanding what glucose test strips are
A glucose test strip is a thin piece of plastic that is inserted into the glucose meter. The strip has a variety of chemical compounds on it that react with a drop of blood. Some meters measure how much light reflects from the test strip, while others measure the amount of electricity that passes through it. This measurement helps determine your blood glucose level, which is then displayed on the meter's screen in a matter of seconds.
All test strips require coding; however, most of them do not require you do to this manually. If your meter requires coding of your test strips, it simply means that when you open a new vial or box of strips, you must manually enter the code listed on the vial or box. Most test strips take care of this for you with a code embedded in the strip itself, or with a tiny microchip that can be read by the meter.
Today's test strips are much more user-friendly than those manufactured several years ago. The blood sample requirement is much smaller, and testing time is faster. Glucose strips are also available in more convenient packaging, such as small vials that can be slipped into a pocket or purse, or discs, which have several test strips inside. These discs can be placed directly inside a meter, cutting down on the time and effort of handling each individual strip.
Is the test strip more important than the meter?
When choosing a glucose meter, there are many factors to consider. One of the most important is the test strips that meter uses. The ease of use can vary from one test strip to the next. The best options typically include no coding, a very small sample and a quick response time.
Finances might be a factor as well. As Diabetes Forecast reports, in many cases insurance may cover all or most of the cost of the meter. However, the test strips can be very expensive. Though insurance companies might cover the strips, they could have a cap on how many they cover in a given time period. Depending upon how often you test, you could be paying for several boxes or vials of strips out-of-pocket each month.
Finally, remember that accuracy is the most important thing about the meter and test strips you choose. Compare brands to determine the accuracy of each. If you are curious about the accuracy of your test strips, the Federal Drug Administration recommends testing your meter against the meter at your doctor's office. If there is a significant discrepancy in the results, it might be time for a new meter.
Diabetes Forecast Magazine, "Home Glucose Monitoring"
FDA, "Blood Glucose Monitoring Device"