Using Blood Glucose Control Solutions: When and Why
It would be interesting to know how many people with diabetes actually use blood glucose control solutions to regularly check the accuracy of their meter and test strips.
The fact that control solutions cost extra, necessitate the use of a test strip, and have expiration dates so need to be frequently replaced makes their use prohibitive for some people. Convenience is another issue since not all glucose meter kits include a control solution, and pharmacies may not stock solutions for each brand of meter.
However, the Food and Drug Administration recommends people use glucose control solutions:
- When opening a new test strip container, and periodically while using that container of strips.
- When people get unusual test results.
- When meters are dropped or otherwise damaged.
These recommendations are naturally intended to prevent people from basing their blood sugar management on false readings owed to meter or test strip malfunction.
Using Control Solutions
For the uninitiated, glucose control solutions are liquids containing a known amount of glucose. A drop of this solution is placed on a test strip, instead of a drop of blood, and the meter reads the solution’s glucose level. If all is functioning well, the meter will automatically indicate the control solution is within range, or the glucose level will match a range given on the meter’s test strip vial.
If the control solution’s reading is outside its accepted range then something is amiss, and users should:
- Check to see whether their test strips have expired. If not, were the strips ever left uncapped in a steamy bathroom, exposed to light, extreme heat, or cold?
- Check the expiration date on the blood glucose control solution. If it’s still usable, was the solution shaken well before use? Was it tightly capped when not in use?
- Consider that the meter may be malfunctioning, particularly if it were recently dropped.
If there is no ready explanation for an out-of-range control test, or if the meter might be damaged or on the fritz, users should get in touch with the meter’s manufacturer.
Obviously, the upside of using glucose control solutions regularly is knowing the glucose readings that diet and insulin adjustments are based on are accurate.
Without using control solutions, people eventually realize unexpected symptoms might be owed to a test strip or meter problem, but meanwhile may suffer some discomfort, anxiety, and possibly dangerously high or low blood sugar levels.
So, although using glucose control solutions is another task among many for those managing diabetes, we may choose to incorporate that quality assurance into our management routine.