What is a Blood Sugar Test Kit?

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Jules Walters • Published: Dec 17, 2023

Anyone living with diabetes knows that a blood sugar test kit to monitor your blood glucose levels can be a life saver. These test kits also help people who are pre-diabetic, and increasingly healthy consumers too.

Blood sugar test kits come in a range of shapes and sizes. But what does testing involve, and how do you choose the right test kit? Let’s find out!

Short summary

  • Blood sugar test kits help manage diabetes by providing real-time readings and tracking glucose levels in the blood. Typically, testing involves a finger-prick test and a test strip inserted into a blood glucose meter (also called a glucometer).
  • Test kits are used too by people who have a diagnosis of pre-diabetes, or think they may be at risk of developing diabetes. And, increasingly, they are used by healthy consumers, who just want to better understand their bodies.
  • The test kits come with different shapes, sizes and methods. While finger-prick testing is the traditional method, continuous glucose monitoring systems (CGMs) are increasingly popular.
  • Cost and insurance coverage may be a factor in selecting the right test kit for you.
Self-testing for blood sugar with finger stick lancet device and glucometer

Choosing a reliable blood glucose meter

Think of the blood glucose meter as the key instrument in diabetes management, or blood sugar awareness if you’re potentially pre-diabetic. This device provides crucial data to guide your health decisions. But how do you select a dependable one?

The accuracy of your blood glucose meter is really importnat. It helps in monitoring your glucose levels and managing your diabetes. Also, the compatibility of your meter with blood glucose test strips matters. It guarantees accurate and consistent readings, much like a compass you can rely on to always point north.

Several blood glucose meters have their unique features. For instance, the Walgreens TrueMetrix Bluetooth Blood Glucose Meter offers the convenience of Bluetooth connectivity, while the Rite Aid TrueMetrix Meter is affordable and can store up to 500 blood glucose readings. The point is, when you’re sailing the ocean of blood sugar management, a reliable blood glucose meter that fits your needs and preferences will make the voyage smoother.

If you’re uncertain, do seek help. Your doctor or a certified diabetes care specialist can help you in choosing the right meter.

The role of lancing devices and lancets

Think of lancing devices and lancets as key companions in this process. They aid in obtaining the blood sample required for your blood glucose meter to function.

Typically, the devices are plastic holsters containing tiny, spring-loaded needles that will prick your fingertip to extract a small drop of blood. Some popular options include AUVON Lancing Device & Twist Lancets, Microlet Next, and Genteel Plus.

Just remember to change your lancets every time you use them to ensure they’re always sterile and sharp. That way, you’ll minimize any pain or after effects from the pinprick.

Understanding blood glucose monitors

Comparison images of traditional blood glucose meter and a continuous glucose monitoring system

Now for blood glucose monitors. Imagine these devices as your lookout in the ship’s crow’s nest, giving you real-time data on your blood sugar levels. This information helps you to steer clear of the choppy seas of either too much or too little blood sugar in your system. But not all lookouts are the same. While some may shout warnings only when you ask, others keep a constant vigil, alerting you of dangers ahead.

By their nature, traditional blood glucose meters lack the very latest technology. They require you to prick your finger and manually feed the blood to the meter whenever you need a blood glucose reading.

Alternatively, a continuous glucose monitoring device, also known as a (CGM), acts like a vigilant watchman. It will measure your glucose level continuously, then transfer the data to your smartphone or another dedicated device.

The CGM system typically involves attaching a transmitter to your upper arm, connected to a fiber the size of a kitten’s whisker that’s inserted in the interstitial fluid layer just below your skin.

CGMs provide real-time readings and track blood sugar trends without the inconvenience of manual blood sampling and frequent finger pricks.

Traditional blood glucose meters (glucometers) vs CGMs

When it comes to choosing between traditional glucometers and CGMs, it’s like choosing between a one-time reading and continuous data. Traditional glucometers require a finger prick to get one blood sample for testing sugar levels. The drawback is that it’s one point in time, such as before or after a meal, and the hassle of manual testing can be quite bothersome.

In contrast, a CGM keeps tabs on your sugar levels all the time. It’s like having a round-the-clock lookout, constantly monitoring the sea for signs of danger.

How to accurately measure glucose levels

Now let’s understand the precise mechanism of measuring glucose levels. Like a proficient skipper tackling the rough seas, this process needs practice, preparation, and interpretation of the data.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps.

Preparing for a blood sugar test

Clean hands and blood glucose test strips

Before blood sugar testing, get everything you need ready. This requires clean hands, correct storage of test strips, and a functioning meter.

Having clean hands is important to avoid any residue, like dirt or oils, that could interfere with the test area and give you inaccurate results.

Also, the way you store your test strips can affect your blood glucose testing. If the test strips aren’t stored properly, they can get contaminated or damaged, which can lead to inaccurate readings. So, be sure to:

  • Store them in a cool, dry place
  • Keep them away from direct sunlight and humidity
  • Protect them from anything being spilt on them.

Obtaining and testing a blood sample

Now for the testing; where the lancet meets the finger. To start with, make sure you:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and warm water
  2. Use an alcohol swab to clean the area where you’ll prick your finger
  3. Use a lancet device to prick the side of your fingertip. Then, gently squeeze it to produce a small drop of blood.

Once you have your blood sample, place it on the glucose meter’s test strip and wait for the meter to reveal your blood sugar level.

Interpreting test results

Now you’ve unlocked the knowledge of your blood sugar levels, the next step is interpreting the results. The standard blood sugar range for individuals with diabetes can differ based on various factors, such as age, overall health, and the type of diabetes.

For those without diabetes, the blood glucose readings usually range from 70 to 99 mg/dL when they haven’t eaten for a while, such as when you first get up. This is often called fasting blood glucose levels.

Tracking and monitoring blood sugar levels over time

Chart showing blood sugar levels over time

Managing diabetes is not a single journey but a continuous process. Tracking and monitoring your blood glucose levels over time enables recognizing patterns, making informed choices, and possibly preventing long-term health complications.

Various tools can aid in this process, from traditional blood glucose meters with test strips to CGMs that continuously monitor your blood sugar.

Benefits of blood glucose meters with memory

Imagine having a personal assistant, documenting every detail of your journey. That’s what a blood glucose meter with memory does. It stores past blood glucose readings, allowing you to:

  • Track your blood sugar levels over time
  • Spot any changes or patterns
  • Adjust medication and treatment
  • Identify triggers and patterns
  • Provide motivation and accountability

This can be incredibly beneficial in managing diabetes, or alerting you to a pre-diabetic condition.

While the capacity of these meters varies, most can store around 500 to 800 readings. By identifying patterns in your readings, you can make informed decisions about your health and steer yourself towards the safe shores of well-managed blood sugar levels.

Using apps and digital tools

Numerous apps and digital tools are now available to aid this process. For instance, apps like Glucose Buddy, Nutrisense, and Diabetes:M can sync with CGMs, giving you real-time blood glucose readings.

These apps not only track your blood glucose readings, but also your food intake and medications. They generate reports that can be shared with your healthcare professionals, boosting your confidence and ability to manage your blood sugar.

Special features to consider when choosing a blood sugar test kit

Blood sugar test kit with Bluetooth connectivity

While managing diabetes, you might encounter various tools with special features.

For instance, blood glucose meters with Bluetooth connectivity allow you to sync your blood glucose readings to a mobile app, giving you real-time insights into your glycemic control.

Other special features to consider include alternate site testing and large displays. Alternate site testing reduces pain and discomfort by allowing users to test their blood sugar levels in areas other than their fingertips, which have fewer nerve endings and are therefore less sensitive. Large displays, on the other hand, make it easier to read and understand blood glucose readings, especially for anyone with impaired vision.

Cost and insurance coverage

Choosing a blood sugar test kit not only requires understanding its functions and features, but also its cost and whether it might be covered by insurance. So, bear in mind the initial purchase cost of the blood sugar test kit, ongoing expenses for the consumable items like test strips and lancets, and whether your insurance covers any of these costs.

The cost of blood sugar testing kits, including test strips and CGMs, can vary significantly. Through 2023, glucose test strips have ranged from about US $0.15 to $0.45 per strip, while the start-up kit for a CGM system costed anywhere between $500 and $1,000.

When it comes to affordability, the ReliOn Prime Blood Glucose Monitoring System and the Rite Aid TrueMetrix Meter are some of the most budget-friendly options.

Summary

In summary, we can see that managing blood sugar over time is a journey that requires tools, knowledge, and preparation. From choosing a reliable blood glucose meter to understanding how the supporting items work together, practice in using them, and interpreting test results, each step is crucial in navigating your blood sugar management. So, equip yourself with the right tools for you, and be sure to take the personalized advice you need from a healthcare professional.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I test my blood sugar at home?

Yes, you can test your blood sugar at home with a finger-prick test or with an electronic device such as a CGM or blood sugar meter. A small drop of blood is used to measure your glucose level on the device’s digital display.

Can you buy a blood sugar test kit over the counter?

Yes, you can purchase a blood sugar test kit over the counter at pharmacies or online. Shop around for the best deals, as you would for any other purchase.

What is the best blood sugar test kit?

For the best blood sugar test kit, Metene TD-4116 Glucose Meter Kit, OneTouch Ultra2 Blood Glucose Monitoring System and KETO-MOJO GK+ Bluetooth Glucose & Ketone Testing Kit are all great options.

For more on CGMs, you can read my article Best CGM for Healthy Living.

How do I choose a reliable blood glucose meter?

When choosing a reliable blood glucose meter, look for one that is accurate, easy to use, and compatible with test strips. Consider the features it offers to ensure accuracy and convenience. For additional guidance, ask your doctor or a certified diabetes care specialist.

What is the role of lancing devices and lancets in blood glucose testing?

Disposable lancing devices and lancets are a crucial part of blood glucose testing, as they allow for the collection of a blood sample. Many devices come with adjustable depth settings, to minimize the impact of the needle. These are often preferred by anyone sensitive to the pinprick.