Four Essential Testing Tools

This may sound odd, but there’s never been a better time to have diabetes. One reason: There have never been more tools to help you monitor and manage your condition. The first self-monitoring tests didn’t appear until the 1970s, and they consisted of test strips that indicated blood-glucose levels by changing into a color that you had to compare to a color chart for your result.

Today there’s an array of sophisticated testing devices. Don’t be daunted by having to sort through them. Instead, rest assured that the basic task is not very difficult and the range of choices means you should be able to find equipment that will meet your specific needs.

Looking at Lancets
Technically, the lancet is the sharp instrument that punctures your skin, while the handheld unit that holds the lancet is called a lancing device. Lancets are disposable both for sanitary reasons and because they can get dull. Some experts recommend that they be thrown out after each use to ensure that you always use a sterile one, but many people with diabetes (including some doctors) think this is wasteful — not to mention expensive — and reuse their lancets. (An obvious point that’s nevertheless worth making: You should never use somebody else’s lancet.)

Many glucose meters come with a lancing device or even build them in, but you’re not wedded to what the meter manufacturer provides. Instead, you should find an instrument that’s comfortable for you. (Theoretically, you can use lancets by themselves, but a lancing device is not only easier to manipulate with either hand, it’s less painful. The reason: Lancing devices are spring-loaded so that penetration is very quick.) Because your skin may not be as thick as, say, the callused hands of a construction worker, most devices allow you to make at least one or two adjustments to how deep the lancet penetrates your skin. Many people are partial to a model called the Softclix, which has 10 different settings.

A final word to the wise: Whichever unit you buy, you’ll need to continually resupply your stock of lancets. Lancets are not always interchangeable from one device to the next, and costs can vary, so check out lancet price and availability before you buy the lancing device.

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