A Comprehensive Guide To Glucose Monitors & Test Strips

Posted on August 15, 2022 at 06PM

A Comprehensive Guide To Glucose Monitors & Test Strips

Traditionally, people check their blood sugar levels using blood glucose monitors and test strips. Test strips can give you an on-the-spot reading of your sugar levels and assist you in managing your range.

Based on how you treat your diabetes, you may need to use test strips and a monitor to manage your diabetes. Keep reading as we explore what diabetic test strips and sensors are, how they work, how to get them, and which is better.



They’re biosensors uniquely made to detect glucose levels, vital to managing diabetes. So how does this technology work?

Whether in the form of a sensor for a (CGM) continuous glucose monitor or a test strip for a glucose meter, the detection and measurement of blood glucose levels are the same processes.


How Do They Work?

All glucose testing tools — including wearable sensors and glucose meter test strips — are called glucose biosensors. Such compact devices consist of several vital components for detecting and accurately measuring glucose.

The NCBI highlights an exhaustive explanation of the key parts of a biosensor.

A glucose biosensor utilizes the following components:

  • Analyte: This substance comprises chemical constituents being examined and measured. The device is made to detect glucose, which is the analyte.
  • Bioreceptor: It’s a molecule that recognizes the specific analyte. When it comes to glucose detection, specific enzymes and proteins that promote a chemical reaction are applied. For instance, the test strip used for a blood glucose test consists of the enzyme that primarily interacts with the analyte inside the blood.
  • Transducer: The biosensor includes a fundamental component that converts the bioreceptor’s recognition into a measurable signal, typically electrical. While older glucose meters used a colorimetric process measured optically, most modern continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) and glucose meters rely on electrical signals.
  • Electronics & display: They usually process the transduced signal and then prepare it for display. Next, the processed signals are quantified and displayed on either the glucose meter or the receiver for a CGM (or compatible app).



As previously stated, you can get glucose sensors either in a discrete form (diabetic meter test strips) or a wearable form (a CGM). The form factors may look different to the user, but both types of glucose sensors apply the same detection methods. For instance, a glucose oxidase biosensor might be a wearable CGM sensor or a test strip.

It is possible to apply multiple receptors to create the chemical reaction that enables the detection of glucose within a bodily fluid. Enzyme-based is the most popular type of glucose sensor. The glucose sensor’s enzyme coating enables it to react with the analyte and create a secondary species that can be measured electrochemically.

Here’s a detailed look at each type:


Blood Glucose Sensors

Blood glucose meters are among the oldest and most popular ways of testing glucose. As mentioned earlier, these devices use enzyme-coated test strips containing a precise number of enzymes designed to react to a single blood sample only. Therefore, the test strips are intended for single use and cannot be reused. Once inserted into the glucose meter and receiving a blood sample, the diabetic test strip sends information to the glucose meter. The meter then calculates the amount of glucose inside the blood and eventually displays the outcome on the meter’s screen.

Test strips and blood glucose meters are typically more budget-friendly than continuous glucose monitoring devices. Additionally, meters provide more discreet testing as they do not have to be worn on the body.


Continuous Glucose Sensors

A CGM typically utilizes a filament coated inside glucose-sensing enzymes to help detect glucose in the fluid between your cells (interstitial fluid). A CGM automatically detects and measures blood glucose levels throughout the day.

You can even use a CGM sensor continuously for a few days or weeks — the actual duration will depend on the manufacturer. It’s also worth noting that implantable CGM sensors provide months-long wear because they’re embedded underneath the skin in a bigger capsule compared to the thinner filament in other sensors.

Next, the sensor works with a transmitter above the skin to relay information to a smart device or receiver. The transmitter enables you to view your present glucose level and trends wirelessly. The system can notify you when it is time to replace the sensor.

Although the price of a CGM device will differ by brand, it’s often costlier than using a test strip. The CGM demands the constant replacement of more expensive sensors and transmitters.


Where & How Are CGM Sensors Inserted?

You may be wondering about the process of using a CGM sensor. The device is inserted beneath your skin using a needle. You could also opt for needle-free options to minimize complications and reduce pain from insertion.

Although the recommended spots for insertion often include the back of the arm or abdomen, the CGM manufacturer will give you exact recommendations/ specifications on where their product can be placed. An adhesive patch also holds the glucose sensor to your skin to ensure that the sensor stays in place.

The most common example of CGM is Dexcom G7. So, what does it entail?

For starters, it’s the latest version of Dexcom’s CGM. This system has obtained a CE mark, enabling Dexcom to sell this device to patients with diabetes in Europe, and it has yet to be approved for sale in North American markets.

The following are the new key features of the G7®:

  • 60% smaller and round. Its new design enables it to be inserted on the abdomen, back of the upper arm, or upper buttocks (for kids ages 2-17). You can also insert it using only one hand.
  • It enhanced alert settings for improved discretion.
  • 30-minute sensor warm-up.


How to Decide Whether a CGM Is Right for You

Let’s face it: deciding which system you’ll use entirely depends on you. You may need to consider several things like

  • Sensor size
  • cost
  • Life of a sensor
  • Whether you can share your data?
  • Number of times you need to calibrate the system



As you already know, you should insert your test strip into your blood glucose monitor. You add a blood drop to that strip to identify your blood sugar level.


Where Can You Get Test Strips?

You can either get them on prescription or buy them online or over the counter at a pharmacy.

Meters will often take a single type of test strip, and you should know which strip your specific meter uses before purchasing. Undoubtedly, this is important to remember regarding your prescription for test strips. A narrow selection of meters might be available in your neighborhood, and they might only recommend strips for a particular type of meter.

If you have Type 2 and would like to get test strips, you may not be able to obtain them on prescription. You’ll only be able to obtain test strips on prescription if your nurse or doctor wants you to self-monitor.


How Do You Use a Test Strip?

You always start by putting the strip in your particular meter. Once you’ve pricked your finger, you’ll take that meter and hold your test strip against the blood. In short, this is how you’ll get your sugar levels from the meter.


What Is the Difference Between Using a Continuous Glucose Monitor and Traditional Glucose Testing?

Glucometers are portable devices that primarily work on reading glucose levels on a blood sample placed on a test strip. You must discard test strips after a single use, and some meters have limited memory for storing glucose results, which can be downloadable to a computer.

On the other hand, a glucose sensor is a small electrode inserted beneath a patient’s skin (subcutaneous tissue) that constantly records glucose levels throughout the day. The patient usually wears the sensor for around 3-7 days before s/he discards and replaces it. The system transmits glucose readings to a monitor, insulin pump, or smartphone, which displays the actual values. You can also view trend reports and charts after their information is downloaded.


CGMs Are More Accurate

Let’s be honest: CGMs are generally more accurate than traditional glucose monitors, and the latter can be off by up to 20%. By receiving samples every 10 seconds, calculating an average of those readings every 5 minutes, and in head-to-head comparisons, Continuous Glucose Sensors enhance blood sugar control in diabetes patients compared to the older models.

More importantly, the future of these devices is bright. Technical advancements, applying more sophisticated algorithms, and implementing machine-learning methods will undoubtedly make CGMs more versatile and reliable.


How to Find Out Whether Test Strips and Glucose Monitors Are Accurate?

You already know all the factors that affect your test result, but you might wonder how you could ensure that your test strips and glucose monitor are accurate. It’s pretty simple! A standardized test solution often accompanies glucose monitors. You could test your glucometer’s accuracy by squeezing a droplet of this specific solution onto a test strip and then putting it into the monitor.

Remember, you’d go through a similar procedure with a blood sample. Once the device takes the reading, you can compare that reading with the actual amount specified on the solution bottle. And if the two numbers match, then it means your glucose monitor is working correctly. It would be best if you always used the test solution when you opened a new box of diabetic test strips to verify the accuracy and quality of the products.



CGMs are a highly effective tool to help manage diabetes and improve dietary and overall lifestyle decisions. Their use, usually in conjunction with test strips, offers patients a wealth of information that assists them in having a more active role in their care. CGMs indeed offer reliable results in many clinical scenarios.

Developments in software design and technological advances promise to make CGMs much more accurate and helpful in managing diabetes. Whether you have diabetes or other metabolic conditions, you should invest in a CGM or use a test strip to manage your condition.


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