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If you or someone you care for has recently been diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, this article is for you to get familiar with the necessary supplies. These items will help you to manage your diabetes and avoid complications.

Learning to manage your blood sugar levels can also help you to alleviate any symptoms you’ve been experiencing. Read on as we walk through what you may need, talk about brands that many people rely on, and explain how to monitor and manage your condition.

Many supplies can be bought at local pharmacies and online. Some brands and services to be aware of include:

  • US Med. Through the US Med website, the company sells a full line of supplies for diabetes management.
  • Advanced Diabetes Supply (ADS). Accredited by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy for standards of pharmacy care and licensing, ADS is focused on durable medical devices and accessories for diabetes management.

Manufacturers of some devices will work with you through customer agents to answer questions and sell you devices directly.

If you have insurance, experts say one of the best ways to source supplies is to start through your health insurance to see what’s covered.

There are two main ways to measure blood glucose levels:


The first option is to use a glucometer, which is a traditional fingerstick testing device.

CareTouch blood glucose monitoring system

After washing your hands thoroughly, you’ll insert a test strip into the meter. Then you’ll wipe a fingertip with an alcohol swab to clean it and use a lancing device to prick your finger to produce a drop of blood. Finally, you’ll touch the test strip to the blood, and the meter will provide a blood glucose reading.

Most monitors will keep a record of your glucose readings, which may include your averages. You can also use a record book or app to track your readings. If you have vision concerns, select a device with a voice function and a large font option.

Keeping track of these levels over time is what helps you and your health team get a picture of how your care plan is working and if changes should be made.

Consider the Care Touch Blood Glucose Monitoring System.

dexcom 6

Continuous glucose monitoring

Another option is to use a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device. This is a portable electronic device that inserts a sensor in your arm or belly so you can continuously track your blood sugar levels. CGMs are ideal for people who need to check their glucose levels several times throughout the day. This includes people with type 1 diabetes and people with type 2 diabetes who take insulin.

Consider the Dexcom G6 CGM.

To avoid complications from diabetes, it helps to accurately monitor your glucose levels.

Learn how closely you need to monitor your levels

Talk to your doctor to find out how often you need to test your blood sugar. This will depend on the type of diabetes you have and how manageable it is to keep your levels stable.

Try to keep notes

Keep a record of your daily results and details such as foods you ate, physical activity, and sleep patterns. You can also note any medications that you take, along with changes to your daily routine. Pay attention to how your body reacts to all of these factors and make adjustments as necessary. If you have questions, reach out to your healthcare team.

Know your signs for low blood sugar

Signs of low blood sugar levels include feeling:

  • shaky
  • nervous
  • lightheaded
  • confused
  • hungry
  • sweaty
  • sleepy

If you have type 1 diabetes, you will need to take insulin because your pancreas no longer produces insulin. If you have type 2 diabetes, you may be able to manage your condition with diet and exercise alone, but you may need medication such as Metformin. In some cases, you may have to take insulin.

Your doctor can help you to decide which method of insulin therapy is best for you. You’ll need to learn how to administer insulin. Your healthcare provider can give you instructions, tips, and advice when you’re getting started. They’ll also tell you how often you’ll need to administer insulin.

If you use a syringe or insulin pen, you’ll need a clearly marked sharps container for safe needle disposal.

Insulin syringe

Injecting insulin using syringes is the least expensive option. In certain areas, you may buy needles and syringes without a prescription.

Insulin pen

Insulin pens are available in two types:

  • Disposable pens contain prefilled cartridges. You throw away the entire pen once you finish the cartridge.
  • Reusable pens contain an insulin cartridge that you replace once it’s empty.

Insulin jet injector

Insulin jet injectors are a needle-free option that uses pressure to spray insulin through your skin. This device contains an injector, a disposable nozzle, and a disposable insulin vial adapter.

Insulin pump

An insulin pump is a device that attaches to your clothing. It connects to a catheter that’s placed under your skin with a needle, which is known as the infusion site. The device gives you regular doses of insulin, which allows you to have better control over your blood sugar levels. You will need to give yourself a dose of insulin each time you eat.

If you use an insulin pump, always carry spare batteries as well as syringes or insulin pens in case it malfunctions. Make sure you have extra infusion sets at all times.

You may need to measure your ketone levels as part of managing your condition and preventing serious complications of diabetes.

Ketone test strips

To measure ketones in your urine or blood, you’ll need ketone at-home testing supplies, which are available online and in drugstores. To perform a urine test, urinate into a clean container, and place the test strip into the liquid.

Consider ketone test strips that you can buy from retailers like CVS.

Ketone meter

Some blood sugar meters also measure ketone levels. You will still need a separate ketone test strip. Prick your finger and place a drop of blood onto the testing strip.

See your doctor if you have high ketone levels, especially if it’s a common occurrence.

Consider a glucose monitoring kit such as the NovaMax Plus, which includes a glucometer and glucose and ketone test strips.

Indications of high ketone levels include

  • blood sugar levels greater than 240 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
  • tiredness
  • thirst
  • a dry mouth
  • feeling sick
  • confusion
  • difficulty breathing
  • frequent urination
  • flushed skin
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • a fruity odor to your breath
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Because diabetes can affect your skin, keeping up regular basic skincare can help, like applying lotion and drinking water regularly to stay hydrated. Some other tips to consider:

  • To keep your skin from over-drying, avoid hot showers and baths.
  • Always keep your skin clean and dry.
  • Use moisturizing soaps, mild shampoo, and skin moisturizer.
  • Avoid putting moisturizer between your toes because this can promote fungal growth.
  • During cold, dry weather, bathe less frequently and use a humidifier in your home.

Diabetes can contribute to skin concerns, so be sure to treat cuts or wounds immediately. After cleaning the affected area with soap and water, use a doctor-approved antibiotic cream or ointment. Use sterile gauze and cloth bandages to cover the wound.

Giving your feet regular attention is also a good way to help monitor their overall condition because diabetes can sometimes lead to foot complications, including ulcers and nerve damage.

  • Use toenail scissors and a nail file to maintain your nails.
  • Use a magnifying lens to check your feet for sores, cuts, or corns.
  • Use a mirror to look at the bottom of your feet and in between toes.
  • Wear well-fitting broad, flat shoes.
  • Consider wearing socks that are moisture-wicking, seamless, and padded. Compression socks are also a good option.
  • Try not to walk barefoot outside.

To ensure you’re able to maintain blood glucose levels, keep a stash of food containing glucose or simple carbohydrates in places such as your car, workstation, and bedside table.

Ideas for items to include:

  • glucose tablets or gels
  • nuts and seeds
  • dried fruit
  • trail mix
  • whole-grain crackers
  • apple or orange juice
  • regular soda

You may choose to wear a diabetes medical alert bracelet or necklace. It can provide information to paramedics or doctors if you require medical treatment and are unable to communicate. This identification may include that you take insulin, allergies you might have, and your emergency contact information.

Have diabetes supplies to last you at least 3 days. This way, you’ll be prepared for inclement weather or other unforeseen circumstances.

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Learning to live with and manage diabetes can be overwhelming, especially when you’re learning about the various supplies you need to effectively monitor and manage your blood glucose levels. Plus, they may be more expensive than you expected.

According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2017, annual medical costs for people with diabetes were about $16,750. Of this amount, around $9,600 are associated with diabetes. The cost of diabetes supplies and equipment is around $336 a year, or about $28 a month.

Below are some tips to consider to help reduce out-of-pocket costs, including:

  • comparing pharmacy prices
  • buying items on sale or in bulk
  • asking your healthcare professional about discount programs

Compare local pharmacies for the lowest prices

Look for pharmacies with rewards programs offering prescription discounts and find out if there is a membership fee. Manufacturers and stores may have coupons, too.

When possible, buy generic or less expensive medications. Pharmacies may also sell glucometers and strips that are cheaper than name brand options.

You can also shop for supplies online and use prescription discount cards like GoodRx to look up medications to find coupons and local pharmacies.

Compare prescription prices since they vary greatly, even at chain pharmacies within the same city. Small, independent pharmacies are often cheaper than large pharmacies.

Popular apps to compare prescription prices include ScriptSave WellRx, SingleCare, and Optum Perks. Optum Perks is owned by the same parent company as Healthline.

Some states have an insulin copay cap that limits insulin costs even before you meet your deductible. Starting January 1, 2023, Medicare Part D recipients will pay a maximum of $35 a month for out-of-pocket insulin costs, with no deductible.

Work with insurance when you can

To save money on diabetes supplies, contact your health insurance company to see which medication brands and equipment are the least expensive or if there are generic options available. Your insurance company may also have a preferred brand for strips and testing supplies.

Medicare will provide the majority of coverage for diabetic supplies and services. You can purchase a supplemental plan to pay for some of your costs.

Stock up during discounts

Stock up when there are special offers and buy in bulk if it’s cheaper.

Ask healthcare professionals for ideas

Talk with your healthcare team to find out about discount programs that offer free or inexpensive medication. They may also provide you with samples of new products.

Additionally, make sure you’re testing the correct number of times. Follow your doctor’s advice so that you’re not testing too often.

Create a diabetes care plan that helps you structure the various components of your daily routine and health-promoting lifestyle. Prepare at least one diabetic emergency kit and store it in a safe place.

Use a journal, planner, or digital app to plan, schedule, and record the various details of your plan. Use reminders and to-do lists to manage time and tasks.

Organize your medications and supplies shopping schedule. Buy in bulk or set up automatic reorders. Remember to check the expiration dates when buying in advance.

Take your medications at the same time each day. Organize your medication in a weekly pill box and keep it in a visible place.

Things to track include:

  • blood sugar levels
  • A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels
  • symptoms
  • health changes
  • exercise
  • sleep
  • stress
  • diet
  • weight

Schedule an appointment with your healthcare professional at least twice a year for the appropriate tests. You can review your records and discuss your patterns, changes, and progress. For additional support and education, you might consider signing up for a self-management education (SME) program.

Can I get free diabetic supplies?

It’s possible to receive free diabetic supplies from discount and prescription assistance programs. You may also be able to receive new product samples. Talk with your healthcare professional to learn more about affordable ways to obtain your diabetic supplies.

What supplies does a person with diabetes need?

A person with diabetes may need the following supplies:

  • blood glucose meter
  • continuous glucose monitor
  • insulin injectors (syringes, pens, and pumps)
  • diabetic tests strips
  • ketone test strips
  • foods with glucose or simple carbohydrates

Can you buy diabetic supplies over the counter?

You can buy diabetic supplies like test strips, lancets, and glucometers over the counter. You can shop at a pharmacy, order online, or use a subscription service. Your insurance company may require a prescription for some brands to have the costs covered under your insurance plan.

Does OHIP cover diabetic supplies?

The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) covers the full or partial cost of diabetic supplies for people who meet the eligibility requirements.

After learning that you have diabetes, it’s vital to take charge of your health. Arm yourself with the supplies and knowledge needed to navigate the terrain of diabetes management. Reach out to a healthcare professional if you need advice or are unsure about any of the details.