What are test strips?
The test strips are, together with the glucometer, one of the essential elements for self-monitoring and management of diabetes.
Currently there are several ways to measure glucose, although the most common is still through test strips and glucose meters. Although in Solutions for Diabetes we have talked about other systems such as continuous monitoring systems, which do not require pricks as they do not measure blood glucose, capillary measurement is the most reliable and is used to obtain more accurate results.
Test strips are a recent invention (mid-twentieth century), and there are different types to make different measurements. We will focus on glucose test strips, but it is good to know that they are not only used for these types of tests but are also useful for measuring other parameters.
This implies that not all measurements are made in blood, we can also obtain results through other fluids such as urine .
How do test strips work?
Glucose test strips are small pieces of plastic that have the necessary reactive elements in a space so that, once they come into contact with the blood, they react in such a way that we can chemically determine the amount of glucose in the blood.
As we said, this is still the most widely used method for self-management of diabetes and they are, together with pregnancy tests, the best-selling biotechnological devices.
When the test strip comes into contact with blood , an electrochemical reaction occurs . This reaction in turn generates a very low intensity electrical discharge, which the glucometer is responsible for analyzing . The higher the amount of glucose in the blood, the higher the electrical charge. The glucometer will express these data in mg / dl (milligrams per deciliter).
The result is fast and reliable, so it will help us decide if it is necessary to inject insulin or if we have to do something else to keep the glucose level within normal parameters.
Tips for using test strips
There are some factors that can affect the accuracy of the test strips, although we must bear in mind that as in many other systems and measurement elements, there is a small margin of error in the results.
Some of these factors are:
- Test strip quality
- Storage and conservation
- Insufficient amount of blood on the strip
As they are items that people with diabetes can use without medical supervision (although it is recommended that a medical professional help and teach how to use them together with the chosen measuring device), we can often make mistakes in their use or storage that may affect their correct operation.
The most common mistakes are either not putting enough blood on the strip, so the result may be unreliable, or inserting the strip incorrectly into the glucometer.
It is important to keep the case or container always closed , and store it in a cool and dry place with temperatures between 4º and 40º . In places with extreme temperatures we will have to take special care with this.
To this day, test strips are used once and thrown away.
Test strips are one of the most common and important elements in diabetes self-management. As we always remember, if you have any questions or queries, the ideal is to consult with our medical professional to explain how to use them correctly. And of course, review the leaflet that will come in the box of each product.