Urine glucose test strips are paper strips with embedded pads that are sensitive to glucose (sugar). When the strips are dipped into a urine sample, the pads react to the urine and change color to indicate the amount of glucose present in the urine. This can be used to get a rough estimate of glucose levels in the blood. However, there are significant disadvantages to testing urine glucose that have led many people to abandon it in favor of blood glucose testing, which is a much more accurate method.
These strips are usually used to screen people who may have diabetes, or to monitor glucose levels in people with diabetes. Historically, urine glucose test strips were the only method available for monitoring blood sugar at home and they were used by people with diabetes to make adjustments to their insulin and to make other decisions about care. Test strips are also used for diabetic pets, such as cats and dogs.
There are several problems with urine glucose test strips. The first is that people must learn to read them properly. The color change can be subtle, and someone who is not good at distinguishing color or who is reading in poor light may read the test strip incorrectly. This will result in a false high or negative reading that might lead someone to make a decision based on the wrong information.
The second problem is that these strips do not provide information about current blood glucose levels. Instead, they show what blood glucose levels were several hours ago, when the body expressed excess glucose through the kidneys. Blood glucose has to be very high for the body to filter out excess glucose through the kidneys, and by the time someone tests the urine glucose, blood glucose may already have been dangerously high for several hours.
Drugstores sometimes carry urine glucose test strips for people to use at home. They can also be provided by a medical professional, along with instructions on when and how to use them to get the most accurate and useful results. It is advisable to combine urine glucose testing with other forms of monitoring and screening. Home blood glucose testing for both people and animals has become very convenient and highly affordable, and is the preferred monitoring method in most cases.