Diabetic Testing Kit
A good date to start doing diabetic testing and looking out to help your heart health and checking for diabetes symptoms is today to work on healthy eating and regular exercise, such as water aerobics, swimming, or just plain walking. Often seen as a less expensive and a more convenient alternative to a trip to the doctor's office, "diabetic testing supplies" with self-testing diagnostic and diabetes monitoring devices are booming in sales. Devices such as blood-glucose tests and blood-pressure kits make it easier for people to self-monitor conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.
However, this technology-driven home-testing-kit trend is not without limits and could result in serious problems for those who rely on the tests instead of on the expertise of their health-care provider. A recent shift in the home diagnostics market -- from in-home monitoring of chronic illnesses to diagnosing serious or potentially fatal diseases -- is raising red flags among health professionals.
Diabetics already know they have the disease and so they test their blood sugar levels several times a day.
One sign of their overall increasing popularity is the fact that many pharmacists are moving home test kits from behind their counters onto free-standing displays. The lure of the Internet is also helping to make these devices more readily available.
Glucose Testing Devices
What does this test do? This is a home-use test kit to measure blood sugar (glucose) in your blood.
What is glucose? Glucose is blood sugar that your body uses as a source of energy. Unless you have diabetes, you body easily regulates the amount of glucose in your blood. People with diabetes have poorly-controlled blood glucose.
What type of diabetic test is this? This is a quantitative test -- you find out the amount of glucose present in your sample.
Why should you do this test? You should do this test if you have diabetes and you need to monitor your blood sugar (glucose) levels. You can use the results to help you
- determine your daily adjustments in treatment,
- know if you have dangerously high or low levels of glucose, and
- understand how your diet and exercise change your glucose levels.
An early Diabetes Control and Complications Trial showed good glucose control using home monitors led to fewer complications.
How often should you test your glucose? Follow your doctor's recommendations about how often you test your glucose. You may need to test yourself several times each day to determine adjustments in your treatment.
What should your glucose levels be? Your fasting blood glucose level (after not eating for 8-10 hours) should be lower than 126 mg/dL. Your blood glucose level immediately after eating should be lower than 200 mg/dL.
How accurate is this test? The accuracy of this test depends on many factors including:
- the quality of your meter.
- the quality of your test strips.
- how well you do the test.
- your hematocrit (the amount of red blood cells in the blood). If you have a high hematocrit, you may test low for blood glucose. Or, if you have a low hematocrit, you may test high for glucose. If you know your hematocrit is low or high, discuss with your health care provider how it may affect your glucose testing.
- interfering substances (some substances, such as Vitamin C and uric acid, may interfere with your glucose testing). Check the package insert for your meter and test strips to find out what substances may affect the testing accuracy.
- Altitude, temperature, and humidity (high altitude, low and high temperatures, and humidity can cause unpredictable effects on glucose results). Check the meter and test strip package inserts for more information. Store and handle the meter and strips according to instructions.
How do you do this test? Before you self-monitor your blood glucose, you must read and understand the instructions for your meter. In general, you prick your finger with a lancet to get a drop of blood. Place the blood on a disposable "test strip" that is coated with chemicals that react with glucose. Then place the test strip in your meter. Some meters measure the amount of electricity that passes through the test strip. Others measure how much light reflects from it. In the U.S. meters report results in milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood or mg/dl.
You can get information about your meter and test strips from several different sources including the toll free number in the user manual or the manufacturer's web site. If you have an urgent problem, always contact your health care provider or a local emergency room for advice.
How do you choose a Glucose Meter? You can purchase more than 25 different types of meters. They differ in several ways including
- amount of blood needed for each test
- how easy it is to use
- pain associated with using the product
- testing speed
- overall size
- ability to store test results in memory
- cost of the meter
- cost of the test strips used
- doctor's recommendation
- technical support provided by the manufacturer
- special features such as automatic timing, error codes, large display screen, or spoken instructions or results
Talk to your health care practitioner about glucose meters and how to use them.
How do you compare your home test glucose values with lab values? Most home blood glucose meters in the U.S. measure glucose in whole blood. Most lab tests, in contrast, measure glucose in plasma. Plasma is blood without the cells. A lab test of your blood glucose will be about 10-15% higher than the value given by your meter. Look at the instructions for your meter to find out if it gives its results as "whole blood" or "plasma equivalent." Many meters now sold give values that are "plasma equivalent," which means they can be compared more directly to lab test values.
Should you use generic or "third party" test strips? You may choose test strips which are made by a different company than the one that made meter. Sometimes, generic test strips are cheaper. If you choose generic home testing strips
- make sure the generic strips will work with your meter. Check the label of the test strips to make sure they will work with the make and model of your meter. Just because the generic test strip looks like it will work does not mean that it will work.
- watch for inconsistent results. If you get poor results, try strips made or recommended by the maker of your meter until you again get consistent results.
How can you check your meter's performance? There are three ways to make sure your meter works properly:
- Use liquid control solution
- every time you open a new container of test strips
- occasionally as you use the container of test strips
- whenever you get unusual results
- You test a drop of these solutions just like you test a drop of your blood. The value you get should match that written on the liquid control solution bottle.
- Use electronic checks. Every time you turn on your meter, it does an electronic check. If it detects a problem it will give you an error code. Look in your owner's manual to see what the error codes mean and how to fix the problem.
- Compare your meter with a laboratory meter. Take your meter with you to your next appointment with your health care provider. Ask your provider to watch your technique to make sure you are using the meter correctly. Ask your health care provider have your blood tested with a routine laboratory method. If the values you obtain on your glucose meter match the laboratory values, then your meter is working well and you are using good technique.
What should you do if your meter malfunctions? If your meter malfunctions, you should tell your health care professional and the company that made your meter and strips.
Can you test blood glucose from sites other than your fingers? Some new meters allow you to test blood from the base of your thumb, upper arm, forearm, thigh, or calf. If your glucose changes rapidly, these other sites may not give you accurate results. You should probably use your fingers to get your blood for testing if any of the following applies:
- you have just taken insulin
- you think your blood sugar is low
- you are not aware of symptoms when you become hypoglycemic
- the site results do not agree with the way you feel
- you have just eaten
- you have just exercised
- you are ill
- you are under stress
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