The humble test strip

Something that bears the brunt of many jokes in the diabetes community is the test strip. If you haven’t a clue what that is. No worries, I’ll explain.

The test strip is a very small yet essential item for anyone living with diabetes. In order to keep blood glucose levels in check you have to take regular measurements with a blood sugar measuring device called a glucometer.  Even if I wear a CGM (continuous blood glucose monitor) which measures blood sugar through an implanted device, I still need to calibrate my CGM or double check that the reading I’m getting is accurate. Especially in an emergency. Nothing worse than getting a false reading on my CGM and treating it with either insulin or glucose and then having either a low or high. Sound complicated? Not even the half of it.

Anyway I digress…

The test strip is inserted into the Glucometer, I prick my finger with a lancing device, place a minute amount of blood on the test strip and within 5 seconds I see the reading on a screen. Then I take the test strip out and supposedly dispose of it. The big question is where? One lone strip usually lands in the side pocket of my meter case, eventually 1 becomes 50 or 100 and before I know it little tiny test strips covered in droplets of red blood are literally falling out of my meter every time I open it. Too lazy to throw them in the rubbish I put them back in the side pocket only for them to fall out again the next time I go to test my blood sugar.


Stray test strips end up in car seat crevices, on the floor, in the bed, in the toilet, on the pavement, in my hair. I’ve even found a test strip in my soup. Yuk!

Getting the test strip out of the little round container in the middle of the night in the dark is also a total drag. It’s bad enough having to get up to test my blood sugar but then when I waste a strip putting it in upside down and back to front… total headache! Plus if I don’t get enough blood on the strip the machine tells me I have to test again. That’s another waste of a strip.

Strips are made of plastic and as far as I know non recyclable. In fact most of what we  use to manage diabetes is non recyclable. Talk about feeling guilty every time I test or inject. I just wish someone could invent a recyclable paper, bamboo or hemp test strip. In fact why not invent insulin pens, needle cases, devices out of hemp plastic or some other compostable equivalent. Anyone want to start a movement ?

The test strip is also a conversation piece. ” What’s that? My aunt has diabetes. How many times do you test? Does it hurt?”

The test strip is certainly not something to be undervalued or ignored. Before the test strip made its appearance on the world stage, the only way to know what your blood sugar reading was was to use a special solution mixed with urine then boiled to get a rough sense of the levels. Eventually  a urine test strip was used and by the 80’s there were home test kits like the one pictured below, but it took 5 minutes to get a reading.

Screen Shot 2019-11-08 at 5.13.53 PMThink about it, before the invention of insulin and diabetes technology we didn’t know what we had. how to manage it or even how to stay alive. The humble test strip for all its foibles, annoyances and character flaws is an absolute life saver.

I for one will never leave home without it!

See you tomorrow for #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

With great respect…

rachel

P.S. Check out the amazing Miss Diabetes and her latest cartoon about how to test your blood sugar here

6 tips to bounce back from a rebound high

The first time it happened I was clueless. People living with diabetes often talk about blood sugar roller coasters but I thought that just meant highs and lows in a short period of time. What I didn’t understand was that when I go low I also go high and not just right after correcting a low blood sugar. The high lasts for days. My body starts resisting the insulin I’m injecting and I need more insulin to manage the highs which means more risk of lows. When I was a kid I hated rollercoasters and for good reason. They made me feel sick, scared the begeezus out of me and I’d come off the dang thing with a sore throat from screaming my lungs out.

It took quite a few hypo’s for me to work out that the high’s that followed were to do with the lows. At first I just thought there was something wrong with the insulin, or maybe I hadn’t dosed enough. I even speculated that maybe my pancreas had finally hit the dirt and I really didn’t have an ounce of beta cell function left. Because I live with LADA ( latent autoimmune diabetes in adults) I still produce a minute amount of  insulin, this means that sometimes my body squirts out a tiny amount when I first start eating. It also means that if I am already low when I start eating I could go even lower and have a hypo. Not having the recipe as to what my pancreas will do when means there’s a lot of guessing going on. So when I’m high for days on end and doing everything exactly as I did it the days, weeks and months before it feels like I’m in the middle of a crap shoot. Lucky me!

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When people meet someone living with diabetes, the decision making and daily micromanagement is largely invisible. You might see a CGM or an insulin pump, but on the whole it seems as though the whole process runs smoothly.

Here’s what actually goes on most days for me. I wake up, inject. I eat, inject. Go a little below range, take a glucose tab. Go high, take some insulin.  I check my blood sugar every hour to be on the safe side except for at night where I place my faith in morpheus, the god of sleep trusting that the amount I take for my long acting insulin will keep me in range all night. 20 fingerpricks and up to 6 shots a day of insulin is not easy or seamless no matter how doable it is.

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What do I do to deal with the physical and mental blood sugar challenges during a rebound high? Here’s 6 things that have really helped me.

  1. Do some physical exercise which I know increases insulin sensitivity, like a walk with some hills,
  2. Do a yoga practice which works with the larger muscles of the body and includes standing hip openers and balancing postures
  3. Talk to myself in a positive and supportive way when I see a high number on my meter. I.e. This too shall pass, this is a normal response to a low blood sugar, everybody goes through this
  4. Do things in my day that give me joy, like writing, yoga, connecting with a friend or have some hang out time with my husband
  5. Go to bed early, there’s nothing more healing then a good nights sleep
  6. Reach out in the #DOC ( diabetes online community) to find out how my diabuddies deal with the same situation

And if you live with diabetes I’d love to know… How do you deal with a rebound high? Lets start a conversation in the comments below!

See you tomorrow #NDAM #DiabetesAwarenessMonth

with great respect…

rachel