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Tips for buying diabetes supplies

A variety of supplies can make it easier for you to keep diabetes in check.

When you have diabetes, blood sugar control is an important part of your life.

Fortunately, many products can make this job easier.

Here's a look at some supplies the American Diabetes Association (ADA) notes you may need, along with others you might want to consider.

A glucose meter

This important tool lets you check your blood sugar levels at home. When purchasing a meter, consider:

  • Ease of use. Meters come in many shapes and sizes that can accommodate your lifestyle. Ask for recommendations from your doctor or from people who use glucose meters.
  • The price of the meter. Remember to find out if your insurance covers the type of meter you are considering.
  • The overall cost of supplies. Consider the price of test strips that go with the meter—sometimes these can add up quickly. If you have health insurance, certain test strips may be covered. Check what brands are covered and least costly with your plan.
  • Data storage. Many meters sold today store 450 or more of your last test results, according to the ADA, which can make it easier to track your numbers over time.
  • Additional functions. There are many meters available that provide unique features to make diabetes management easier. Some extra functions may include a backlit display, audio and the ability to download results to your computer.

Several devices, known as continuous glucose monitors, are available to help provide ongoing measurements of blood sugar levels. When using one, a sensor that is placed under the skin communicates with a device to give constant readings. These are not necessarily replacements for traditional blood glucose meters, which should still be used to verify readings. Ask your doctor whether these devices would be helpful for you.

Lancets and lancing devices

Lancets prick the skin so you can get a blood sample for testing. These disposable items are generally used along with a spring-loaded lancing device that makes pricking the skin easier. If pain is a problem, consider changing the needle gauge of the lancet. The higher the gauge, the thinner—and less painful—a lancet may be.

There are many types of lancing devices. If you're sensitive to pain or bruising, consider using one that allows you to adjust how deep the lancet enters the skin. You may want to try a few different types to see what works best for you. And once you find a type you like, you may want more than one so you can keep one handy at home, work or school.

Syringes, aids, alternatives

Syringes come in a variety of sizes. In general, try to match the syringe size to your insulin dose. Also check the size of the needle. Those with finer points make injections less painful. Make sure the markings on the syringe are easy to read.

Injecting yourself may not be an easy thing to do—especially at first. A device that helps insert the needle into the skin, such as an infuser, can help.

There are also alternatives to traditional syringe injections. Talk to your doctor about other options, such as:

  • Insulin pens. These devices are prescribed by a doctor and are preloaded with the type of insulin that you need. Insulin is delivered through a single-use pen needle, which is attached to the top of the pen. Each pen comes with a dosing knob, allowing you to select the exact amount of insulin you want to inject.
  • Insulin pumps. There are several insulin pumps in the market, all of which have their own pros and cons. Pumps allow you to fine-tune and adjust insulin doses to your lifestyle—something that may not be as easy when using syringes or pens. Some insulin pumps also connect with other devices—such as continuous glucose monitors—to act as a comprehensive diabetes-management tool.

Other tests

In addition to the supplies listed above, your doctor may recommend that you use one of the following home testing kits.

Ketone test strips are used to check urine samples for ketones, a substance made when the body is using fat instead of glucose for fuel. You may need to check for ketones at certain times, such as when you are ill or your glucose reading is very high.

A1C tests measure your average blood sugar levels over the previous few months. This test is normally done at least twice a year by a doctor, but some kits now allow you to test at home. Generally, you place a drop of blood on a test strip and send the sample to a lab.

Customize it

Other optional diabetes aids can help if you have trouble using the supplies listed above—if you are visually impaired or have coordination problems, for example. Talk to your doctor or diabetes educator about additional options if your diabetes supplies are not meeting your needs.

Reviewed 10/31/2022

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