How Do Diabetes Test Strips Work And Where Can You Find Them

Developed in 1965, diabetes test strips are critical blood glucose testing components. These small plastic pieces help in measuring the levels of blood glucose. Uncontrolled diabetes can eventually lead to complications requiring expensive medications and treatment. But how do they work and are they accurate?

How Test Strips Work

A lot of people find it important to self-monitor the levels of their blood glucose. This is achieved through pricking a finger and placing an amount of blood on the gadget using a blood glucose meter which indicates the levels of the blood sugar. The blood reacts with the glucose oxidase enzyme and produces gluconic acid.

The amount of current produced between the terminals is determined by the levels of gluconic acid the blood glucose releases. The end connected to the glucometer then receives a current from the meter. The meter uses an algorithm to calculate the levels of sugars in the blood.

Because it is loaded with electric terminals, it gets easy for the meter to measure the current. However, despite the measures manufactures put into ensuring the diabetes strips are accurate, there is always some margin. With the small margin of error, however, there are factors that come into play.

2 beakers in a lab setting

Factors Affecting Test Strips Accuracy

  • The storage method
  • Brand quality
  • Humidity and temperature
  • Life: Expired strips cannot give an accurate reading
  • Wrong usage
  • Using non-glucometer brands
  • Blood insufficiency on the strip
  • Improper insertion of the strip to the meter

How effective are Urine Test Strips for Diabetes?

Before the emergence of blood glucose meters, urine strips were the only available instruments for measuring a diabetic’s sugar levels. Unfortunately, to date, this is an imprecise method to depend on for various reasons.

  1. Urine test strips do not detect glucose until it is at 180 mg/dl or above. It means that the levels of blood glucose could be dangerously low or high without detection.
  2. The readings reflected are not from the present moment of testing but from hours earlier. This can lead to misinterpretation.
  3. Because the readings require color interpretation, testing is subject to error. Colorblind people or those with poor eyesight could misinterpret the readings.

Given the shortcomings that come with urine strips for diabetes, healthcare experts recommend the use of blood glucose meter.

Why Should Diabetic Patients use test Strips?

Monitoring the levels of blood glucose in a diabetic situation is crucial to controlling the disease. Left uncontrolled, severe limb and life-threatening complications including kidney disease, blindness, amputation, and stroke could set in. As much as you might want to save costs by avoiding the expense of these products, the consequences could, in the end, cost you more for lack of proper control of blood glucose. However, you need to learn the appropriate and effective usage of the diabetes strips to avoid wastage.

The Cost of Diabetes Test Strips

One diabetes test strip could cost between 40 cents to $1. You must wonder why these little plastic gadgets must cost so much. Beyond the chemicals, enzymes, metals, and other materials, the manufacturer needs to design plants to produce the strips. Each layer must be of a high standard to produce an accurate result.

They are created to determine the amount of blood allowed to penetrate the absorbent layer for accuracy. This is why insufficiency creates a faulty reading while too much of it overloads the circuit. The production cost is also factored in. Diabetes test strips can only be accurate with the presence of palladium and gold in the circuits. The enzymes and chemicals used in the process also tend to be expensive. 

A bowl of sugar and a diabetes test kit

Where Can You Buy Diabetes Test Strips?

With the flood of diabetes strips on the market including Bayer CONTOUR, True Track, and Prodigy, it can be challenging to make a purchase. This is because care needs to be taken to ensure a quality product is bought. Lifestyle diabetes test strips are available in medical outlets and can also be purchased from online retailers including Amazon, Walgreens, Costco, Accu-Chek, CVS, Walmart, Rite Aid, Target, and eBay. Most of these pharmacy retailers offer loyalty cards that can earn you coupons and savings throughout the year.

Patients are advised to be careful when purchasing especially from supply resellers, over the counter, and online. Should they have been exposed to heat, are expired, or used on a different meter from the glycemic one, there will be inaccuracy in the test strip’s readings. You need to be able to diagnose diabetes correctly to be able to cure it. Understand that low quality diabetes test strips tend to sell cheaply. If you are in the US, the best way to purchase your product is through Medicare or other medical insurance. You can also purchase dog diabetes test strips to assess your pet’s urine for ketone and glucose abnormalities.

Are there Free Test Strips for Diabetes without Insurance?

It is nearly impossible to access free diabetes test strips for type 1 and 2 given that they are the most expensive parts of testing blood glucose. You are likely to get a free meter from manufacturers such as OneTouch and Accu-Chek provided you keep buying their test strips brand. Most of them have assistance programs and discounts to help you cut costs. If you find a provider offering free test strips without insurance, you will be required to have a prescription.  Some websites claiming to offer free test strips prompt you to click on their ads only to link you to other sites. Most of them are a scam, luring users to their site in an attempt to profit from the ads.

Final Thoughts

If you are struggling with a limited budget, you might wonder if expired diabetes test strips can be used. The answer is no. They can only be effective when the enzymes are active. Once opened, the diabetes test strips come into contact with atmospheric chemicals and humidity which speed up regeneration.

Although Medicare covers most equipment for diabetics, the amount covered varies for insulin users. With insulin usage, you may receive about 300 test strips and lancets every 3 months. Non-insulin users receive 100 diabetes test strips and lancets unless the doctor recommends frequent blood sugar testing.