How do cholesterol test strips work?

Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist

Cholesterol test strips are used to measure the cholesterol level in blood to provide cholesterol monitoring at home, between doctor visits. The strips are usually available over-the-counter, packaged in kits with additional materials.

Each cholesterol test strip contains chemicals in a tiny chamber. When blood is added to the chamber, the chemicals cause a reaction with the cholesterol in the blood resulting in a color change. Some kits are electronic and produce a cholesterol level reading as a number on a screen; some require that the color on the strip be compared to an accompanying color chart in order to determine the cholesterol level.

Since cholesterol test strips are used externally, so no systemic side effects are expected. However, side effects at the puncture site can occur. This includes excessive bleeding, bruising, pain and soreness in the fingertip used to obtain blood. It is also possible that an infection may develop in the finger.

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