October 28, 2015

Tools Needed for Blood Glucose Testing

Okay, you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Now what? You will need some testing supplies to help you learn to manage your blood glucose levels. The first set of supplies is called a blood glucose meter for holding the test strips. I will cover the test strips later, but know these are what your meter reads and translates information from a drop of blood for your meter to read in a form that you can use.

The meter (no I did not say monitor (continuous glucose monitor [CGM], which is what most people with type 1 diabetes use)) will tell you if your blood glucose is right on, too low, or too high. Realize that your doctor can assist you in suggesting goals, but should never set the goal for you. Blood glucose meters can also tell you how diet, exercise, stress, sickness, and your medications affect your blood glucose levels.

Some suggestions for the meter you use:
  1. Is it and the necessary supplies covered by your medical insurance?
  2. Is the screen large enough to easily read?
  3. Is the amount of blood required small enough?
  4. Does the meter support a download function to a computer or smart phone?
  5. Does the meter contain too many bells and whistles that are not needed?
The smaller the amount of blood required means you don't need to stick yourself as deep. This means it is easier to be successful, and you are less likely to waste test strips. With a meter that can be downloaded to your computer, you can create charts to see how your blood glucose levels vary throughout the day and this can help you make better decisions of when to exercise and what to have for breakfast.

If by chance you don't have medical insurance, consider the reasonably priced meters, test strips, and other supplies from Walmart.

Before doing any testing, start by washing your hands thoroughly with hot water (as hot as you can tolerate) and soap. Once washed, dry thoroughly and then consider testing. The only time to use anything else (alcohol pad) is when you need to clean a finger for testing (and do not have access to water) and know that you have not been eating fruit and have fruit juice on your hands.

Always have the testing supplies handy and set the meter on a level surface. Next, open the container of test strips and remove one strip, close the container, and carefully slide the test strip into the opening in the meter. Hopefully if needed, you have inserted the lancet before taking the test strip out. Pick up the lancing device, arm it (by pushing the spring loaded part of the device), and prick the side of your finger near the tip by pushing the release button. Then you can gently squeeze a small amount of blood and slide the test strip into the blood.

If you are not taking insulin, your insurance will limit the number of test strips you will be able to use. This is when you will ask the doctor for extra test strips for the first three or more months to allow you to do more testing. By testing more often and especially in pairs, you will be able to determine how different foods affect your blood glucose levels.

Some doctors will not even authorize a meter and test strips and this is when it will become necessary to change doctors. Ask your doctor how you can best use your strips to learn how meals, exercise, and rest affect your blood glucose.
Before you ask, know that Medicare covers only one test strip a day for those on oral medications. This is when you must decide if you can afford extra test strips for a few months.

If your meter comes with a case, keep it and use it to hold the container of test strips, the meter, the lancing device, and a small supply of lancets. Keeping the meter in the case will help keep it clean, prevent most dirt for clogging up the opening for inserting the test strips and is just a good habit to prevent possible damage to the meter.

The last item that is important to have on hand is a sharps container or several sharps containers if you are using syringes. You can get inexpensive sharps containers at the drugstore. Or use bleach, laundry soap containers, or detergent bottles made of thick plastic that you can’t see through.

Know the disposal rules in your area and follow them. These vary by state and often differ from one city to another. It is always wise to ask.

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