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Test strips and monitors

Test strips and blood glucose monitors are the traditional way of checking your blood sugar levels. You use test strips to give you an on-the-spot reading of your blood sugar and help you manage your range.

Depending on how you treat your diabetes then you might need to use a monitor and test strips to manage your diabetes. Here we’re going to take a look at what monitors and test strips are, and how you can get them.

Blood glucose monitors

A blood glucose meter is a way to check your blood sugar and you should already have one if you treat your diabetes with insulin. Your standard meter will have a lancet to prick your finger, a digital display and a place to insert a test strip.

You will also use a blood glucose meter if you manage your diabetes with some other medications like sulphonylureas.

You can get a range of different types of blood glucose monitors. There are some meters that have extra features such as USB connections that allow you to log your readings on a computer. There are also meters that have calculators for insulin to carbohydrate ratio, and that you can link up with your smartphone.

You might also be able to get a strip free meter. What this means is that you don't need to insert strips into the meter because they come pre-installed. Instead of replacing a strip each time you use the meter there is a rotation of test strips in the meter, this is called a cassette.

You will have to replace the cassette when it runs out and there’s usually 50 strips available.

There are also blood glucose meters that also check your ketone levels as well. Knowing if you have ketones is important if you are treating your diabetes with insulin.

How do you get a blood glucose monitor?

Your doctor or nurse will give you a blood glucose meter for free if you have Type 1 diabetes or treat your diabetes with medication that can cause hypos. On rare occasions you will get a prescription instead. Remember, you don't pay for prescriptions if you have diabetes and it’s treated with any type of medication.

If you have diabetes that isn’t treated with medication that causes hypos then you might not be able to get a blood glucose monitor from the NHS. This is because the current NICE recommendations are that self-monitoring blood sugar isn't right for everyone with diabetes. You should check with your healthcare team if you want to self-monitor.

There are many different types of blood glucose meters available. That means you may not get the one you've read about or want from your doctor or nurse. But they should provide you with a monitor that meets your needs for blood sugar checking

You can also buy a blood glucose meter from a pharmacy or online. Our shop sells meters and test strips. You should speak with your healthcare team before you buy your own meter. 

Test strips

A test strip is inserted into your blood glucose monitor. You apply a drop of blood to the strip to get your blood sugar level

Where to get your test strips

You can get test strips on prescription or you can buy them over the counter at a pharmacy or online.

Most meters will only take one type of test strip. So, you should make sure you know which strip your meter uses before buying. This is also important to remember with your prescription for test strips. Your local area may only have a limited range of meters available to them and will only prescribe strips for the meters they give out.

If you have Type 2 and want to get test strips, you might not be able to get them on prescription. You will only be able to get test strips on prescription if your doctor or nurse wants you to self-monitor.

How to use a test strip

You start off by putting the strip in your meter - unless it comes preinstalled. Then after you've pricked your finger you take your meter and hold the test strip against the blood. This is how you will get your blood sugar levels from your meter.

Other ways to check your blood sugar

You have other options open to you if you don't want to regularly check your blood sugar using a blood glucose monitor. This includes the flash glucose monitor and the continuous glucose monitor (CGM) but that’s only if you meet the criteria.

But even if you use flash or CGM, there will still be times that you will need to check your blood sugar using the traditional finger pricking method. This is because flash and CGM both have a small delay in the results they give you.

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