You’re Always On My Mind: Questions and Thoughts About Diabetes

Yesterday, I went to the pharmacy to get some new test strips. I have come to embrace the fact that, even though you can see the 100 strips behind the counter and have no idea what harm they could possibly cause anyone, you are still told that it will take 30 minutes to get them. Thirty minutes for the pharmacist to walk three yards and print out a label.


I’m still not sure why test strips require a prescription. I’m aware there are fake ones, and that is quite a moneymaker as I pay almost 90 cents per strip. But what goes on at the pharmacy while the test strips are sitting on the wall right in front of me?

Does coffee ever raise your blood glucose level, even if you don’t put sugar in it? This has happened to me a few times recently, and I’m just curious to know if it happens to others. I typically have a cup of coffee in the morning and usually add a little milk, half a packet of Splenda (sucralose), and a dash of cinnamon. I sound like a real man, right, cinnamon in my coffee with half a Splenda? There’s an old saying the men in my family have passed down for generations: “The Stuckeys like their coffee like they like their women—instant.” Zing.

Another thing on my mind recently has been that I’m often asked how something affects my diabetes, and what the doctor says to do. This is very common when I’m drinking alcohol or eating high-fat foods that everyone knows are pretty bad for you. I always say that, with drinking booze, moderation is the key. I’m sure you’d be hard-pressed to find a doctor who said one glass of wine was going to do you real harm. However, it would be even harder to find a doctor to say, “Son, you have Type 1 diabetes—I recommend you drink at least two bottles of red wine a day and start smoking.” The same goes for healthy eating—no one is recommending an unhealthy diet. It’s just all about being aware of everything you put into your body and knowing how it affects your body.

My final thought revolves around one thing I’d like to get better at, and that is shortening the life of my lancets. Now, I think I’m not going out on a limb when I say that I don’t do a good job of changing the lancets in my finger-pricker, or whatever you call the device in my kit that breaks blood vessels daily. I think that there are probably a lot of others out there who also don’t take the time to remove the little needle. I can tell that it’s been a while when the needle gets dull. I’m pretty sure there’s no serious risk involved, but a new lancet sure does break the callous on my birdie finger the first time I use it.

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  • BK7557

    Hey Andy,
    Coffee raises my BGs too and I drink it just like you mentioned, with or without the cinnamon.
    Bernel K.

  • dhwforty

    I haven’t seen any pharmacists who don’t have a backlog of prescriptions. They are generally taking first come first served. They make exceptions for a scrip that is urgent. But test strips are routine care, not time sensitive(or shouldn’t be. Respect the pharmacist for sticking to an orderly process in woking with a queue instead of breaking the sequence, especially since filling your test strip scrip is not just typing a label, since they would also look you up in their data base. So arrive early, phone it in, or take advantage of whatever services the pharmacy has to fill your scrip proactively and eliminate your wait.

  • tami girl rocks

    Yeah Andy, you are not the only one. I
    started using new lancets each time when
    I developed “tracks” on my ring finger.
    My boyfriend didn’t think it was too funny
    since I’m still trying to get rid of the real tracks on my arms!

  • chef Bob

    when you purchase the test stripsover the counter you can’t use your register receipt for tax purpossess, unless it is itemized on your receipt. But you still may have trouble claiming it on taxes. With a prescription it is documented as necessary by your Doctor, and can be deductable on your taxes.

  • BostonBlackey

    When I drink more than two cups (medium) of coffee (no sugar but with cream) my BG goes up as well.

    I don’t know where you get your test strips but at the local Walgreens here in Boston they are out on a shelf with all the rest of the stuff. I would guess that the prescription would be so that insurance would pay for them.

    I love your column.

  • Florian

    Hi Andy,
    I assume you are talking about your morning coffee. Could it be the famous “dawn phenomena” that is working to raise your blood blood sugar. It doesn’t happen to me but I drink decaf.
    In Massachusetts syringes can be purchased without a script, as well as test strips, and lancets.
    What kind of lancets do you use? I like the BD UltraFine but the 30 ga needle gets dull fast. A dull needle whether it’s at the end of a syringe or lancet causes a lot of peripheral damage, more pain, black and blues, callouses, etc.
    I recently requested the BD UltraFine 33 gauge lancets from my mail order pharmacy and I am eager to find out if they really are ouchless. I bet they fit the other description better “use once and discard.”
    Florian (Type 1, dx 1967)

  • Mike

    I’ve never needed a prescription for glucose strips except for medicare or other insurance reimbursement and I’ve been buying them since they came on the market.

  • Dave B

    Insurance is the only reason to have a prescription. I go to WalMart and buy their ReliOn brand. Meter cost me $8.88 but a box of 50 strips only costs $22 or 0.44 each. ReliOn Lancets at $1.95/100 seem to work as well, same as the alcohol swabs. BUT, I pay $6 extra for BD insulin syringes. I have not found a store brand yet as good (comfortable).
    WalMart has the strips behind the counter because there is a BRISK business in stolen diabetic supplies.

  • malaw

    What pharmacy requires a prescription for test strips? I sure don’t want to go there. I buy as many as I need – or can afford at a time.

  • Linda

    The strips are behind the counter because it requires drawing blood to use them.
    I recently presented the idea of providing glucose testing at our church. We do blood pressure screening regularly. Why not glucose tests? It would be a great way for people to determine if this is something they should discuss with their doctors. I even volunteered to pay for the monitor and test strips and had volunteer nurses lined up to do it. Then the church checked with their insurance company. The cost to insure this simple finger prick is so exorbitant that the church simply could not afford to do it. You would think it was major surgery.

  • LMc

    Andy, if you don’t change the lancet each time, aren’t you taking a chance on compromising the new sample?

  • robinhood16

    I was getting into the habit of changing my lancet whenever I opened a new container of 50 strips but sometimes that even seems to often. When I was first diagnosed I went on e-bay and purchased about 1000 of the silly things. At the current rate I will run out about the same time the sun goes dark.

  • mjs254

    At our Costco I have no trouble getting test strips, and there is no prescription needed, either. In fact, I have never heard of a prescription being needed for test strips. The test strips are behind the counter, but I just ask for them, the person at the couner goes back, gets them and I pay for them. No problem. This was true as of a couple of weeks ago when I bought my last box of test strips. If it has changed since then I’m not aware of it.

  • tulrahan

    Lancets are mony makers-ergo controls to keep Joe sixpack from eluding the tariff.If pressed i can identify the cost of a box of lancets.

    As to changing them, I do. ‘Have an inate concern about blood poisoning

  • fred2mihi

    Like you,I never change my lancet either. The one I am using is about 6 months old, boy, sure is dull.
    How about changing needles? I use one for about 12 injections then change. Mainly when it gets so dull that it leaves bruises and limits my injection area.

  • lbowersrph


    I am a pharmacist. The prescription is required if you want the INSURANCE COMPANY to pay for your test strips. If they audit the pharmacy and do not see a prescription on file, they will deduct payments to the pharmacy. This helps reduce fraudulant claims. YOU can buy your test strips and pay CASH any time you want to. It takes a while to process the prescription because your data has to be transmitted to the INSURANCE COMPANY and they respond with the proper co-pay, etc. MOst problems with prescriptions are the result of INSURANCE COMPANT problems – prior authorization, formulary changes, etc.

    Your coffee may elevate your BG because of the caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant and speeds up metabolic processes in your body. This may cause a minor increase in your blood glucose.

    Hope this helps.

  • LeeH

    Hi Andy –
    Guess I am lucky because 3 cups of coffee a day does not bother my BG level. Coffee, stevia and 1/2 oz almond milk or less x each cup. I DO cover the carbs by figuring into my daily ratio 1 gram carbs per cup. 1 gram of carb isn’t suppose to need covering but I do it anyway. A1c is 6.1 for Type I. I love cinnemon too – but not in coffee!

  • I’m not sure I have a user nam

    I was taught to change the lancet after each use.

  • skeet70

    I don’t change the lancet after each use either, I wait until I stick myself and get no blood than I know the needle is dull.

  • Ephrenia

    Strips RX – lbowersrph said what I was going to say.

    coffee – 1. the milk could be your real culprir? OR, 2. if you aren’t eating breakfast and only drinking the coffee – have you heard about Dawn Syndrome?

    lancets – I change when they get dull. BUT I change needles EVERY time, ever since I founf FLOATIES growing in my vial and had to waste over half a bottle of Lantus! I won’t stick a used needle back in the vial ever again.

  • SNAP

    Change the lancet for sanitary reasons unless you are dipping it in alchol (rubbing, not drinking) every time you re-use it.
    Sometimes I test on a finger and get a high reading so I test again immediately on the other hand and get a significately lower reading. I think it is a defective strip and they cost too much to just ignore. Do you know any reason the test would be higher from one hand to the other?
    I’m type 2.

  • Anonymous

    LeeH:Why isn’t mere presentation of my insurance card as ID sufficient? Is it that my dr. can be assumed to have certified who I really am? Not to be rude but b***

  • lewis_12_03_66

    I usually change the littly finger picker about once a week. Fried foods will definitely make your blood sugar soar.What effect does pricking the same finger at the same place have?

    Thank You,
    Diana Lewis

  • dkny95

    Hi Andy,

    I am Type 2 diabetic. When I first found out and started testing, I used a new lancet every day. Now, I use the same one for several days, then change to a new one.

    As far as coffee, I usually have 1 cup of either hot tea or coffee (with a couple of packs of cream and Equal or Splenda). I haven’t noticed it raising my blood sugar level.

  • lee zard

    dude! you crack me up. i suggest you use a mail order pharmacy for your supplies – there’s no waiting in line! as for lancets…i can identify! i change them more now than i used to – the gauge is when it starts to hurt a bit too much. i applaud those of you that are regular changers of lancets and needles. as i jab myself i often see the sideview drawing of a needle from the adverts; you know the one where it loses its point after one use? i extrapolate the drawing with each poke.

  • Mil?no

    Hola, I have been a Brittle Juvenile diabetic since 1963, I’m 61 years now. I take insulin 3 x a day, using 3 different types of Insulin. I use Humulog, N & R.

    In using lancets and insulin needles, I have found this procedure to be very safe. Since I use 91% alcohol to clean my skin, before each shot, and I keep the alcohol in a short, wide mouth jar with clean cotton in the bottom as a bedding, making it easy to reach into. I also place my lancets into this alcohol to help disinfect any stray germs. It is no problem to put it into the finger pricker.

    No diabetic wants to catch an infection from a dirty needle with the danger of what a serious infection can do to your body parts, like losing a finger or hand , so it is better to be safe than sorry from being too lazy to place the lancet into an alcohol jar. I also wipe my syringe with this alcohol and keep the syringe from putting bad germs into my body. I have made my lancets last for many years using this manner with no infec

  • Mil?no

    this manner with no infections, ever. As for coffee, it is difficult to say why your blood goes up sometimes after coffee. It could be for many other reasons. Like your liver putting out glucose, or some food you ate before finally being digested, or lack of movement or exercise. Why would you consider using cinnamon as not being a manly thing to do. It is a real man who takes good care of his body. Most other men of society are just a bunch of lazy, non-thinking, non-caring xxx when it comes to their own health. Just look at how fat most men are. they look like pigs, not men. Cinnamon is very healthy for diabetics to use and should be used each day as much as you desire. 6 years ago, I had to do something about my blood pressure and high cholesterol & triglycerides. The numbers were very, very high. As a diabetic I thought I had always eaten a somewhat healthy diet, but when learning the bad condition I was in I decided to research foods to see if I could find foods to help lower the

  • milano

    to help lower these bad numbers. I did not wish to take the pills my diabetic doctor specialist prescribed for me. They drugs would cause side effects I could not live with like “ED” . So, I chose all of the most complex foods I could buy and started using them and making them taste good. I lived on these foods for a year and to my surprise, and my doctors GREAT SURPRISE, all of my numbers with to normal and on top of that, I lost 70 pounds without any exercise. It took 1 1/2 years to lose 70 pounds and my energy level went through the roof. In other words I felt like a 20 year old man with the energy I now have. Also, My insulin usage dropped by 2 /3 rds. I have not had a cold or the flu in the past 6 years. I used to get sick all the time. I take no vitamins or any other things but all I eat is the most healthy foods. I have even written a book to teach my friends how to achieve what I have done. they all begged me to teach them. If any one would like to talk with me, please do.

  • Joelle

    I guess not every insurance company is the same, but at my pharmacy I have a perscription that simply reads “Diabetic Supplies” and is renewed every year. Anyhow, this way I can walk in, buy my strips or infusion sets, resevoirs, etc and just have the pharmacy tech write me a handwritten receipt- much quicker. Actual drugs require the pharmacist filling the script and making label. I am also a bad one for waiting until the last minute and having to wait for what seems like an eternity when I walk in for a perscription.
    As far as lancets go, we were all taught to change them everytime. I tend to change it when I have a bruise on my forearm. I bet my endocronologist would do the same after a bit. A box will last me years! I know that it is not good, but I need something to slack off on and this seems so inert and harmless.

  • Ann

    I’ve just been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I wasn’t overweight to begin with and now I’ve lost weight–I think too much. Any ideas about how to gain some weight and still keep my sugar under control? My levels are not really high–usually between 116-l30. I have NO ENERGY!! What can I eat to put on weight?

  • cherylrwalker

    Coffee absolutely raises my blood suger. I bolus for every cup.

    As far as changing the lancet – maybe once a month.

  • sydneymum

    Well I rarely change my lancet and it never caused me any trouble.

    Coffee doesn’t make me go high although it is supposed to be 11 gms for a cup.

    I order my strips from diabetes Aust. over the phone and get 10 boxes each time. It is not a prescription you need but a ndss (national diabetic s? system?) form that you need. My chemist has it in his computer and I just sign on the dotted line when I want strips and can only get 2 boxes at once from the chemist but it only takes about 5 mins.

  • Jerry

    After reading this page I got shocked-You guys mean to tell me that you are not changing lancet every time you pring your finger?Do you realize this is for one use only?With my monthly supply comes equell number of strips and lancets.So everytime I pring my finger-it’s no big deal.It don’t hurt,because lancet’s cutting tip is very sharp-but after using it more times-it get realy dull.I’m checking my BG 4 to 6 times a day.

  • John

    I have been sticking my fingers for 9 years now. I was not changing lancets very often until my insurance told me if I got them through a mail order company they would pay for them. So now I change every stick.

    Most paharmacies do not require you to wait for strips when you go to get them. The only time you have to have to wait is when you have them on prescription. My insurance does not cover them under prescription, so I just go and get them at the counter at the paharmacy where I go. But some pharmacies have them in a dispensing apparatus in the aisle where you just dial in the strips you want and they are popped out for you without even going to the prescription counter.

    As for the red wine case, I have had two of my doctors tell me that I should drink 1 to 3 alcoholic beverages a day. There still is some question about beer, and if you drink beer, drink a lite beer which has only about 13.5 carbs per 12 ounces. Red wind has about 3.5 carbs for 7 ounces. And a shot of hard liquor does not have any carbs in a 1 1/2 ounce shot.

    The reason I have been told to drink the alcohol is that my cholesterol is 106, which makes my HDL 12. They say the alcohol raises the HDL level to where it needs to be, between 45 and 60. Go figure.