Tips for using (and taking care of) your diabetes supplies
Make the most of your medications and equipment with this expert advice.
Managing diabetes by using your equipment correctly is critical to your health. These devices can help prevent complications from blood sugar imbalances and the serious issues they can cause, including heart disease, nerve damage, Alzheimer’s disease, and kidney damage, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Between the glucose monitors, medications, and finger sticks, managing diabetes can often feel like a full-time job. One helpful way to ensure you stay on track? Know the ins and outs of your supplies—and how to take care of them properly. Here are some tips.
1. Determine a monitoring schedule
The first step, according to experts, is to know when (and how often) to check your blood sugar levels.
“I can’t tell you the amount of people who just check randomly,” says Ajay D. Rao, M.D., associate professor of medicine at the Center for Metabolic Disease Research and Section of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine.
Depending on your lifestyle and the severity of your condition, your doctor may want you to check your blood sugar levels before meals, after meals, at bedtime, and/or first thing in the morning. Talk with your doctor to figure out a schedule that works for you.
2. Keep your supplies handy
Once you know when and how often you need to check your blood sugar levels, think of a safe and convenient place to store your glucose meter, batteries, test strips, and anything else you might need. Dr. Rao suggests keeping multiple blood glucose meters in readily available places. Keep one at home, one at work, and/or one in your bag. Also, he notes that it’s important to store your meter and test strips at room temperature and keep test strips in their sealed container.
Take care of your blood glucose meter by making sure you use it correctly (read the instructions), wash your hands before each use, and never clean it with harsh household cleaners. Instead, use a little soap, water, and a soft cloth.
3. Check your test strips
While blood glucose meters will last for years if you take good care of them, the test strips have an expiration date. Knowing that date is important: An older strip diminishes in reading accuracy.
“The last thing we want is the wrong blood glucose reading being put out there,” Dr. Rao says. “The crucial thing is to make sure you have a consistent supply of test strips,” he says. That way you’ll always have fresh strips on hand.
4. Test your meter and strips
Dr. Rao recommends testing your meter and strips every two or three months to make sure your supplies are still working properly. You should also test your meter and strips if you drop your meter, get unusual results, or open a new box of strips.
To test your meter and strips, start with a control solution (a solution made with a set amount of glucose) to test the accuracy of the meter and strips. Most glucose meters come with a control bottle, but you can also find control solution at a pharmacy. Dr. Rao notes that it’s important to get the control solution that matches your meter.
You’ll know your supplies are in good shape if you perform the test and the number on the meter matches the number on your control solution bottle. If the numbers don’t match, try the test again.
If the two numbers still don’t match after multiple tests, contact the manufacturer or supplier ASAP.
5. Talk to your doctor about a continuous glucose monitor
Consider using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes and are taking three or more insulin injections, or if you use an insulin pump, Dr. Rao says. These wearable devices automatically measure your glucose every few minutes 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A small sensor is inserted under the skin, and you never take off your monitor.
“With blood glucose meters, you’re getting point-to-point measurements,” Dr. Rao says, noting that it can often be difficult to understand what’s happening in between the two readings. But with a CGM, he says, you can fill in those gaps with more comprehensive data. Then, you and your doctor can pinpoint trends in your blood sugar levels, which can help you find solutions to better manage your condition.
Many CGMs even come with their own mobile app so you can upload your data and share it with your provider. Ask your doctor for more information.
6. Check abnormal CGM readings
If your CGM registers an unusual reading, or if your glucose readings don’t match the way you’re feeling, confirm by using your blood glucose meter, Dr. Rao says.
While the research suggests that CGMs are accurate, your blood glucose meter offers an even more accurate reading. That’s because CGMs aren’t technically measuring your blood sugar levels, Dr. Rao says. Instead, they measure the glucose in the fluid between your blood vessels and cells (known as interstitial fluid). For this reason, you should check your blood sugar levels with your glucose meter before making any treatment decisions.