Blood glucose test strips are an important part of managing diabetes. They help you to monitor your blood glucose levels over time and they support your care team by giving them a better understanding of how your medication is working to control your symptoms.
Why testing your blood glucose is important
Many of us may be wondering what blood glucose test strips actually do, why they cost so much, and whether there is an alternative. While they are costly, they are very easy to use, and they make living with diabetes much less worrisome from day-to-day.
Regular testing using blood glucose test strips will help you and your doctors determine whether you are reaching your treatment goals, how your diet and lifestyle is affecting your blood sugar, and how well your medication is working overall.
How blood glucose test strips work
Blood glucose strips may be small, but they are jam-packed with sophisticated technology. If you look closely at a blood glucose test strip, you will notice several layers of thin plastic:
The outer layer is one is designed to wick up your blood sample. The middle layer channels the blood to where it is supposed to be, which is called the reaction center—essentially, an electrical circuit—that is laser-cut from gold. The next layer has three components: an enzyme that reacts with the glucose in the sample, a chemical that delivers the glucose to the circuit so that a reading can be made, and a mixture of chemicals that stabilize the reaction. The circuit within the strip then transforms the sample into an electrical current, which is read and analyzed by the meter.
It all sounds complicated, but the whole process happens very quickly, within seconds of taking the sample.
Why use blood glucose test strips?
Considering how many blood glucose strips you might go through in a day, it is easy to see how the costs can start to add up. However, monitoring your blood glucose is an essential part of managing diabetes. The alternative would be less accurate monitoring and potentially a much higher risk of complications.
At the beginning and as you develop your testing routine, it may be necessary to use more test strips than you will later on. Taking control of your diet and making positive lifestyle changes will help you get on a more predictable schedule. Once you are more comfortable with your new routine and your meter, you will learn to avoid waste and will probably be able to reduce the number of strips you use in a day.
How often should I test my blood glucose?
The frequency with which you test your blood glucose largely depends on what type of diabetes you are treating.
Type 1 diabetes requires more frequent testing, often from four to ten times daily.
The frequency of testing in type 2 diabetes will generally be determined by your doctor and will vary considerably from person to person. Normally, testing before meals and at bedtime is recommended.