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A Guide to Diabetes Test Strips: How to Select and Properly Use These Diabetic Supplies

written by: Tricia Edgar • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 4/18/2011

Are you choosing test strips for diabetes? Different meters and strips offer no coding, alternate site testing, different sample sizes, and different ways of placing the blood onto the test strip. Choose the diabetes test strip that works for you.

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    Diabetes Test Strips: A Valuable Tool

    The advent of home blood glucose testing was the advent of a new age in diabetes management. Home urine testing was a crude method of discovering whether blood glucose was high, but test strips for diabetes brought the accuracy of blood glucose testing to an entirely new level, allowing people to manage their diabetes much more intensively and accurately. Today, there are many different test strip and meter companies with so many different diabetes test strips to choose from.

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    Why Use Test Strips?

    Using diabetes test strips before and after meals and upon waking gives you a good idea of what your blood glucose values are doing throughout the day. They give you an important glimpse into the trends of your day so that you can correct your food, medication, insulin dosages and activity levels if necessary.

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    The Proper Use of Test Strips

    Diabetes test strips must be used properly in order to yield accurate results. If the strips are damp or are exposed to extreme heat or cold, they will not work properly. Keep the test strip package sealed and dry.

    People with diabetes need to ensure that they do not get infections, since they heal more slowly than people without diabetes. Frequent lancet changes and good hand washing practices ensure that the hands remain sanitary when using test strips.

    The hands need to be washed well to ensure that there is no cross-contamination from food, because this can skew the blood glucose results. The strips must not touch anything except the meter.

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    Choosing Test Strips for Diabetes: Different Test Strips Work in Different Ways

    When you select test strips, ask your doctor for sample meters and strips so that you can see which ones you prefer. Often companies will give you a meter for free if you purchase some of their strips. The sample size, coding and alternate site testing are all variables to consider when selecting test strips for diabetes.

    To determine how to use a specific blood glucose meter, look at the instructions and determine what sample size the meter needs to work. Blood glucose meters vary in the size of the sample that they require. A larger sample requires a lancet setting that is higher to ensure that enough of a sample collects on the strip. Test the lancet on your fingertip to make sure that enough blood comes out.

    Determine whether the meter requires test strip coding. Some meters require you to place the code on the test strip package into the meter before operating the meter. If so, place the code into the meter. If possible, calibrate the test strips with test fluid to ensure that they are within the right range.

    Research how to place the blood on the strip. Some blood glucose test strips like the FreeStyle require you to place the drop of blood next to a black dot. Others have a line or a strip that fills up with blood and counts down after you first place the blood on the test strip.

    Some glucose meters like Accu-Chek offer alternate site testing. However, alternate sites such as the palm or arm often respond less quickly to rapid changes in blood glucose.

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    Advances in Diabetes Testing Technology

    Advances in diabetes testing technology may one day decrease reliance on test strips. Technologies such as the continuous glucose monitoring system measures interstitial fluid and relates this to blood glucose values. This gives the person with diabetes a minute-by-minute look at how blood glucose values are trending. However, continuous glucose monitoring systems must still be calibrated with diabetes test strips.

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    References

    National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. What is Continuous Glucose Monitoring?

    http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/DM/pubs/glucosemonitor/

    Parker, Donald R. Blood Monitoring Challenges.

    http://www.nkdep.nih.gov/about/workinggroups/Parker_LabWG_072706_508.pdf

    Scheiner, Gary. 2004. Think Like a Pancreas.