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What are Diabetic Testing Strips?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Jan 25, 2024
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Also known as blood glucose test strips, diabetic testing strips are simple plastic strips that are used along with a glucose meter to monitor the levels of glucose in the bloodstream. Some strips are also formulated to test for ketones, although they are not as widely used as the strips used to check blood sugar levels. Each strip may be used once, and then must be discarded.

The strips are part of an overall glucose monitoring system. Along with diabetic testing strips, this system will include a glucose meter, alcohol pads, and small sharp instruments known as lancets. The pads are used to clean the fingertip where the blood sample is harvested, while the lancet is used to puncture the surface of the skin and extract the blood sample. This is usually accomplished by gently squeezing the fingertip after the puncture is made, and depositing a small amount of blood on a strip. Over the years, the amount of blood required to obtain an accurate reading has been reduced significantly.

Diabetic testing strips are rectangular, and are generally very small. One end of the strips are treated with a chemical solution that helps to hold the blood sample in place, making it possible for the meter to analyze the sample and provide a reading. The opposite end of the strips are coded to allow the meter to make a connection with the blood sample, and initiate the testing process. Depending on the design of the glucose meter, data from diabetic testing strips can be analyzed within a matter of seconds, and provide an accurate reading of the current glucose levels in the blood sample.

Care must be taken when handling diabetic testing strips. Touching the end where the blood sample is applied can leave behind minute traces of oil from the fingers, which will compromise the ability of the meter to properly analyze the blood sample. In like manner, touching the opposite end with the fingers will also interfere with the function of the meter. People who routinely use glucose meters learn to grip the strips along the middle section when removing them from a storage container, during the administration of the blood sample, and when inserting the loaded strip into the meter.

All brands of diabetic testing strips are intended for use within a given period of time. Generally, it is possible to purchase strips in sets of twenty-five, fifty, or one hundred units that will remain functional for a period of up to one year. Once a container of strips passes the expiration date noted on the packaging, it is highly unlikely that an accurate reading can be obtained. With some brands, the meter will simply fail to recognize the expired strips, providing no reading at all.

There are a number of different brands of diabetic testing strips on the market today. This is because most glucose meters that are sold require the use of a proprietary brand of testing strip. The strips are sold at a number of retail outlets, notably pharmacies, supermarkets that have a pharmacy department, and large discount retailers that include a pharmacy as part of their store plan. Diabetic testing strips and other diabetic supplies can also be purchased online, often at very competitive prices.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By AnswerMan — On May 10, 2014

My insurance company would only cover one diabetic test strip per day, probably because I wasn't diagnosed as an insulin-dependent diabetic. I actually use two diabetic meters now. I have a higher end Ascensia meter that takes the more expensive Ascensia elite test strips. Those test strips are covered by insurance. I also use a store brand glucose test meter and inexpensive strips to gauge my blood sugar levels before and after meals.

Over time I have learned what foods I can eat without spiking my blood sugar and which foods to avoid. I don't test every single day, since I'm not currently insulin dependent. I know other type 2 diabetics who test 4 or 5 times a day, and use those test results to calculate an insulin dosage.

By Inaventu — On May 09, 2014

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, my doctor told me to get a good glucose test meter and a generous supply of diabetic test strips from a pharmacy. The meters were all relatively inexpensive, but some of the test strips were surprisingly expensive. In some cases, the price worked out to $1 a strip, and I was supposed to test at least 3 times a day, if not more often. Talk about sticker shock.

I asked the pharmacist about the prices on strips and she said many health insurance policies do cover a certain number of strips for people diagnosed with diabetes. However, there were also store brand diabetic meters available that used much less expensive test strips. They may not be as accurate as higher end diabetes test meters, but they would work well enough for patients to get an idea of how different foods affected their blood sugar levels or if they were in danger of going too high or too low.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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