The Life of a Needle (Continued)
Lancets and Their Myths
So let's talk about all the various pokey things in our dLives. The one sharp we all use is the lancet, a.k.a. "the finger stabby needle thingy." Believe it or not, there has actually been a lot of advancement in the design of this most humble of sharps. The lancet needles have gotten thinner and thinner over the years. And the lancing device, the spring loaded thingamajig that holds the lancets, have gotten better and better. They're more ergonomic, have a greater degree of varied depth settings, and are generally smaller and more portable than they used to be. Actually, as a chill-down-your-spine side note, the lancet pre-dates the lancing device. In the old days you just had to man-up and stab your finger manually.
Be grateful you live in the times you live in.
Now the folks that make lancets will tell you to use a new one every time you test. They've even been able to convince Medicare to give seniors enough lancets to do this. (Ironic, because it's almost impossible to get Medicare to cover enough test strips, but that's a subject for another column.)
But you don't need to change the lancet every time you test. No matter what you were told.
There are two myths surrounding lancets. The first is the risk of infection. This has been extensively studied and there just isn't any risk. In fact, nowadays most experts advise against even using alcohol pads to sanitize the finger before lancing. Important exception: never swap blood with anyone under any circumstances. Don't even swap blood with people you swap salvia with. But so long as you use your lancet for you and only you, you needn't worry about getting an infection.
The second myth actually has some truth to it: the fact that lancets get dull over time. We'll see this whole issue come up again in a moment when we talk about needles for injecting medication. In point of fact, lancets do get dull with use, but rarely with a single use. How quickly the tippity-top point loses its edge depends on how tough your hide is and how thin a lancet you're using.
Oh, and how often you test your blood sugar, of course.
I know people who change their lancet daily. I know one girl who changes her lancet every six months. I use mine for about a week. But I have a very simple formula you can use to know when you need to change: Change your lancet when it hurts your finger. Not when it hurts a lot, but when you say, "Huh, I felt that a bit more than usual." That's your body's way of telling you the lancet is getting too dull and needs to be swapped. (Note: the retail cost of a lancet is 6¢)
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I'm sitting waiting for a table at the cafe' for me and a friend who is running a bit late. Feeling a little off, I grab my test kit and poke my finger, getting a little blood droplet. "Does that hurt?" Asks the man sitting next to me. He's an older guy, with some pretty profound ear hair. I note the ear hair as I say "Sort of... I think I'm kind of used to it now. I've been doing it a long time." My sugar is a little elevated...