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Lancet: Definition and Overview

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Man checking blood sugar -- What Is a Lancet?

What is a lancet?

A lancet is a pointed piece of surgical steel encased in plastic, used to puncture the skin on one’s finger (or other body part) to get a blood sample. Other types of lancets are used for making small incisions, as in the draining of boils and abscesses. Lancets for blood sampling are available in different gauges, which refer to the width of the metal point. The higher the gauge, the smaller the perforation the lancet makes. For example, a 23-gauge lancet makes a larger hole in your skin than a 30-gauge lancet does. Some people find the higher-gauge lancets less painful to use, but the trade-off is that it may be harder to get an adequate drop of blood with a higher-gauge lancet.

What is a lancet device?

While some people simply use a lancet alone to stick their fingers, many people prefer to use a lancing device. A lancing device uses a spring to drive the lancet into the skin and retract it very quickly. It also allows the user to change the depth of penetration depending on the thickness of the skin and calluses and the sensitivity of the fingertips. In this way, enough blood can be obtained without causing unnecessary pain. Usually, when you buy a blood glucose meter a lancing device is included. However, if the one that came with your blood glucose meter is too painful or doesn’t produce a big enough drop of blood, it is important to realize that there are many other lancing devices on the market.

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If you still have trouble getting an adequate drop of blood despite trying different lancets and lancing devices, diabetes educators suggest washing your hands with warm water, hanging your hand down by your side, or shaking your hand vigorously like a thermometer before lancing your finger. Each of these techniques can increase the blood supply to your fingertips. After puncturing your finger, gently “milk” it from the knuckle to the fingertip to promote bleeding.

Originally Published June 13, 2006

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