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Glucose Test Strips and Monitor Systems

Glucose test strips, otherwise known as diabetes test strips, have special chemicals which react to blood. A meter uses light to measure the strip and provide a number to represent blood sugar levels.

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In the United States, approximately 24 million people suffer from diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Constant monitoring of blood glucose is essential to managing diabetes. The most common monitoring devices include glucose meters and test strips, some of which have been recalled.

Diabetes and Blood Sugar

In simplest terms, diabetes, or diabetes mellitus (DM), is when blood sugar, or blood glucose, is too high due to some degree of insulin resistance and/or faulty insulin secretion. Insulin is made in the pancreas and helps transport glucose to cells throughout the body.

When the body has some form of impaired glucose regulation because of inadequate insulin, the glucose stays trapped in the blood instead of providing necessary energy to cells. This leads to health issues like hyperglycemia and heart disease, which is the leading cause of diabetes-related death.

When the amount of glucose in the blood reaches a certain point above normal, the diagnosis goes from prediabetes to diabetes.

Types of Diabetes

A growing understanding of the disease has shown that all individuals, both men and women, can develop diabetes at any age.

Type 1

Once referred to as juvenile diabetes because of its common development in children and adolescents, Type 1 diabetes can also affect adults. In this type, the body’s immune system attacks and destroys pancreatic β-cells, the cells responsible for producing insulin. Thus, the body is unable to make any or adequate insulin to regulate blood glucose. This overactive immune response is due to various genetic and environmental factors.

Type 2

Formerly known as adult-onset or non-insulin dependent diabetes, type 2 diabetes can develop in children as well, but is most prevalent among middle-aged and older adults. This form of diabetes is caused by a developed case of insulin resistance, where the body fails to use insulin for glucose uptake, eventually making the pancreas unable to make enough insulin.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, roughly one third of adults over the age of 65 have impaired glucose tolerance and over 90% of diabetic adults have type 2 diabetes. Certain genetic factors, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle are the greatest risk factors for developing this form of the disease, and it’s becoming more common in children as childhood obesity rises.


Pregnant women develop this form of the disease when certain produced hormones cause insulin resistance, though most cases of gestational diabetes go away after birth.

Diabetes Symptoms and Diagnosis

Some individuals may not present any signs of diabetes, but early and common symptoms of diabetes are associated with hyperglycemia. These symptoms include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Extreme thirst (polydipsia) or hunger (polyphagia)
  • Frequent urination (polyuria) that leads to dehydration
  • Effortless weight loss
  • Dry or itchy skin
  • Blurry vision
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • “Pins and needles” or loss of feeling in the feet

In order to confirm a diabetes diagnosis, plasma glucose must be measured with a blood test.

Blood Glucose Monitoring Devices

The treatment for diabetes can depend on the type. Both type 1 and type 2 sufferers should be cognizant of their diet and lifestyle and control their blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Patients may also take glucose-regulating medications such as insulin and oral antihyperglycemic drugs. Type 1 diabetics must take insulin injections while type 2 may be treated with either insulin or oral antihyperglycemics.

If not monitored or controlled, diabetes can lead to a vast array of other health complications and put patients at a greater risk of developing bacterial or fungal infections. Certain complications may also require amputation of a toe, foot, leg, etc.

Heart disease is the most serious health risk associated with uncontrolled diabetes and is the leading cause of morbidity among diabetic patients.
In order to keep diabetes under control, blood glucose levels must be frequently monitored. It’s vital that patients quickly learn how to self-monitor using fingertip blood, test strips, and a glucose meter. This way, patients can adjust their food and insulin intake, physical activity, and medications as needed.

Test Strips and Glucose Meters

The most common method of monitoring blood glucose is with a blood glucose monitoring system that consists of an automated lancing device for pricking the finger and collecting a blood sample, along with a glucose meter and test strips for measuring levels of glucose in the blood. While there are many kinds of devices available, they generally include these three components.

Some meters allow you to take blood samples from other areas including the palm, upper or forearm, calf, or thigh. This is called Alternative Site Testing (AST) and isn’t considered as accurate as using the fingertip. Therefore, it should only be used if blood glucose is relatively stable.

According to the FDA, in the case of a malfunctioning meter, you should contact both your health care provider and the manufacturer of the meter and strips.

Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM)

These systems include a subcutaneous micro sensor that inspects glucose levels of fluid tissues. They are put in place for up to a week until they need to be replaced. These devices, however, are not considered as reliable as glucose meters and therefore should be used along with a meter before changing treatment.

Diabetes Monitoring Devices Recall

Abbott, a prominent manufacturer of home glucose monitoring and testing systems, issued multiple recalls over the past year for various models of their FreeStyle glucose monitoring meters and strips. The devices display inaccurate glucose level readings, both on the low and high end, along with the devices experiencing a host of mechanical problems.

There has been one death reported to the FDA as a result of the faulty system along with an instance of diabetic ketoacidosis in an adolescent patient. For many patients, these devices are the only ones covered by their insurance, leaving them with little choice but to use them. It has been reported that the company has also failed to issue a notice to their customers of the recalls.

  1. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/endocrine_and_metabolic_disorders/diabetes_mellitus_and_disorders_of_carbohydrate_metabolism/diabetes_mellitus_dm.html
  2. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/type1and2/index.aspx
  3. http://www.fda.gov/medicaldevices/productsandmedicalprocedures/InVitroDiagnostics/GlucoseTestingDevices/default.htm