What are Some Essential Diabetic Supplies?

Katharine Swan

Diabetic supplies are vital for good control of both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. The most important diabetic supplies are a glucose meter and test strips, as well as insulin supplies such as insulin vials or pens, syringes or pen needles, or an insulin pump and its attachments.

A person with diabetes checking her blood glucose levels.
A person with diabetes checking her blood glucose levels.

A glucose meter is possibly the most essential of the diabetic supplies, because it enables diabetics to test their blood sugar and take action to keep it at certain levels. High blood sugar must be treated with insulin, and low blood sugar must be treated with some type of glucose, or sugar, such as glucose tablets. Checking one’s blood sugar frequently, and correcting as needed, is the best way to maintain good control.

A vial of insulin.
A vial of insulin.

In order to test one’s blood sugar, test strips are used in accordance with the glucose meter. A test strip is inserted into the meter, and a drop of blood is applied to a specific area on the end of the strip. The glucose meter then determines the sugar levels in the blood via a chemical reaction within the strip. Tiny sensors in the strip gauge the chemical reaction, and relay that information to the meter. The blood glucose is then displayed on the glucose meter’s screen.

Insulin injections can be given using a regular syringe, or with an insulin pen.
Insulin injections can be given using a regular syringe, or with an insulin pen.

For diabetics who take insulin, which includes all type 1 diabetics and some type 2 diabetics, insulin delivery supplies are also very crucial diabetic supplies. Many diabetics take insulin via shots or injections, which may be given with regular syringes or with insulin “pens.” Insulin pens are pen-shaped insulin delivery devices with special disposable needles that screw on. Then the user turns the dial on the end of the pen to select the correct number of units, and injects the insulin by inserting the needle into the skin and depressing the dial. Many diabetics find this type of insulin delivery system much easier and less complicated than vials of insulin and syringes, the latter of which must be destroyed and disposed of properly.

Other diabetics prefer to use an insulin pump to deliver their insulin. Insulin pumps are small, pager-like devices that deliver a constant stream of insulin to the wearer through a tiny catheter in the person’s skin. Some insulin pumps have a reservoir for the insulin on the pager-like device, and the insulin is pumped through a tube to the catheter. Other insulin pumps store the insulin on the wearer’s body, and the pager-like device emits a wireless signal that controls the delivery of the insulin.

There are still other diabetic supplies, such as a glucagon kit, which is an emergency shot given to a diabetic when he or she is suffering from extreme hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Other diabetics use special test strips to test their blood for ketones, a potentially toxic byproduct created when the body attempts to compensate for the lack of sugar, or energy, getting into its cells. Newer diabetic supplies are also being developed all the time, such as continuous glucose monitors, which track blood sugar levels continuously via a sensor worn just beneath the skin.

Insulin pumps are advanced systems that are often preferred by type 1 diabetics.
Insulin pumps are advanced systems that are often preferred by type 1 diabetics.

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