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How Do Glucose Test Strips Work?

Marc Kaplan

Over 29 million people
have diabetes in the United States alone. Diabetes is a condition where your body is unable to properly regulate insulin and blood sugar levels, which can lead to dangerous consequences if it goes untreated.

A key part of living with diabetes and properly regulating your blood sugar levels is being able to test your blood glucose. This helps those with diabetes monitor their levels since the body can't do it on its own.

Have you ever wondered how exactly those with diabetes check their blood glucose? How do glucose test strips work, anyway?

We are going to go over how this life-saving technology works, so that you can get more of an idea of how those with diabetes live and manage the condition.

What Is Blood Glucose?

First, it's helpful to understand exactly what we mean when we refer to blood glucose. Blood glucose, also known as blood sugar, is the amount of sugar currently in your bloodstream.

When you eat or drink, the food and/or drink is broken down and digested by your body. This releases the components of the food, like fat, protein, and sugar, into your body.

Sugars are the main energy source used by your body. So when you digest sugar, it goes into your blood to be brought throughout the body and provide your cells with energy.

In non-diabetics, your body will recognize when there is too much sugar in your blood. Insulin is secreted by your pancreas, which signals for the sugar to be taken in by your cells and thus exiting your blood.

But diabetics aren't able to regulate insulin or blood sugar levels properly, which results in varying blood sugar levels that are either too high or too low.

What Are Glucose Test Strips?

Glucose test strips are small, plastic strips that help to test and measure blood glucose levels. Usually, a finger prick is administered and a droplet of blood is placed onto the glucose strip.

This strip combined with a glucose reader/meter will then provide a readout of the level of blood glucose in the blood at that time.

Why It's Important to Monitor Blood Glucose Levels

We've mentioned that it's important to monitor blood sugar levels because if they go unregulated, there can be serious medical consequences.

Let's look at some of the consequences that can be experienced with both too high and too low blood glucose levels.

Dangers of High Blood Glucose

High blood sugar levels are quite common in diabetics, especially before they're diagnosed or if they're not managing their diabetes properly.

High blood sugar, also known as hyperglycemia, can cause a number of symptoms that might not be noticeable until levels are much higher than they should be. You usually won't see symptoms until blood glucose is at 200 mg/dL, which is significantly higher than a "normal" (2 hours post-meal) level of 140 mg/dL or less.

Some early symptoms of high blood glucose include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Constant need to urinate
  • Intense thirst
  • Headache
  • Fatigue/tiredness

If levels aren't regulated after these initial symptoms, high blood glucose can lead to serious complications. Dangerous and toxic ketones will build up in the blood, which is called ketoacidosis.

This leads to:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweet-smelling breath
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Abdominal pain

Long-term hyperglycemia can lead to heart disease, improper circulation (can lead to amputation of limbs), kidney damage/failure, fungal/bacterial infections, cataracts, nerve damage, and even death.

Dangers of Low Blood Glucose

On the other hand, blood sugar levels that are too low can also cause severe medical problems. Low blood sugar, also called hypoglycemia, can occur because of dietary choices, exercise, illness, medications, and because of improper diabetes care.

When levels are at 70 mg/dL or lower, that's considered to be hypoglycemia. The initial symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Hunger
  • Shakiness
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Anxiety
  • Fast heartbeat

Symptoms will only get more severe as the low blood sugar level goes untreated. These complications include:

  • Passing out
  • Seizures
  • Loss of coordination
  • Numbness
  • Coma

Both hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia can be treated if they are recognized, tested, and taken care of. The way to do this is with blood sugar testing and monitoring.

How Do Glucose Test Strips Work?

So now that we know what blood glucose is and why it's so important to keep the levels regulated, let's look at exactly how this key piece of diabetic technology works.

A droplet of blood is placed at the end of the glucose test strip. The glucose in the blood will then react with an enzyme that's found in the glucose test strip called glucose oxidase.

This reaction produces a different chemical called gluconic acid. Based on the level of gluconic acid produced, an electrical current will be triggered and sent from the test strip into the glucose meter. The more glucose in the blood, the more gluconic acid, the bigger the electrical current produced.

Then, the glucose meter is able to "read" this electrical current differential in the test strip and figure out the measurement of glucose in the blood. Pretty complicated and impressive for one tiny little strip, isn't it?

Blood Glucose Strips Explained: Wrapping Up

Well, there you have it. If you've ever wondered, "how do glucose test strips work" you now know the answer. This technology can literally save lives. It allows diabetics to monitor their blood sugar levels when their body can't do it on its own.

This can prevent scary complications like diabetic ketoacidosis, limb amputation, and even death. While the potential complications are scary, the good news is that diabetes is completely manageable thanks to technology like glucose test strips and glucometers.

Have more questions about this technology, diabetes, or something else? Don't hesitate to contact us.

If you're looking for affordable diabetes supplies, check out our wide selection. You can also check out our blog for more information on health, medical technology, and more.


Normal Blood Sugar Levels In Adults with Diabetes

Complications of Acute and Chronic Hyperglycemia

What Is the Difference Between Hyperglycemia and Hypoglycemia?

On to you

What questions do you have? Let us know in the comments below and we'll be happy to help!

-Marc Kaplan

CEO, Save Rite Medical


Created with a vision of helping customers in anyway possible, Save Rite Medical CEO, Marc Kaplan, created the company and has grown it to become the leading internet provider of medical supplies. Through valuable products to educational information, Save Rite Medical is your #1 resource for medical supplies.