The life of a diabetic isn’t an easy one. Diabetes isn’t a complicated disease, but it requires constant maintenance in the form of diet exercise and potentially medication. Once the pancreas stops producing the hormone to neutralize blood sugar (blood glucose), then it needs to be closely monitored for essentially the remainder of a diabetic’s lifespan. The consequences of unmonitored and skewed levels of blood glucose are serious. It can result in long term kidney damage, severe obesity, foot problems, comas and potentially death!
In order to monitor blood glucose levels, diabetics have been using a testing system for decades. In it, they prick their fingers to get a small amount of blood. This blood is placed upon a test strip, which will then be put into a handheld blood glucose testing device. The blood is analyzed and the glucose level is appropriately monitored.
However, in the last few years, another option has been developed. Instead of having to manually prick yourself to take blood out, continuous monitoring devices have been developed. These devices use implanted sensors that measures blood glucose at a cellular level. What it means is, quite simply, there’s no more need to keep hurting yourself!
How Does it Work: Continuous Blood Glucose Monitors
Continuous glucose monitors (or CGM) functions on a pretty simple level. Instead of blood needing to be taken out of the body through pricking fingers, there is a sensor and transmitter. The sensor is inserted just under a person’s skin, usually on the belly, but sometimes in the arm. That sensor is what is measuring the glucose levels between cells. This sensor has a wireless transmitter, which sends the data back to your glucose monitor. Many also have apps where the information can be sent directly to a smartphone.
What is done with the information is dependent on the rest of the system. Blood glucose is controlled by a hormone secreted from the pancreas. Since diabetics don’t produce enough, they have used injections as a method of getting some for many years. There are modern delivery systems that can continuously release this hormone as it’s needed. When linked to a proper CGM, the pump will automatically release as much as is needed without needing to manually handle it. Overall, it’s a very efficient system that has streamlined the maintenance of a diabetics blood sugar levels. These full service pumps are typically best used by Type 1 diabetics, but Type 2 can make use of them as well.
Questions and Answers
After reading about prickless blood glucose monitors, it’s likely that you have some questions about how they can be used. Some of the most commonly found questions are included below.
Q: Who makes CGM systems?
A: There are many companies that have produced CGM systems. Some of the most popular include the Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitoring Systems, Freestyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring, Guardian Connect System and Eversense Continuous Glucose Monitoring.
Q: What’s the downside to using a CGM?
A: Costs are higher if you use a CGM. CGMs still need to be monitored to ensure they are reporting accurately, so it won’t entirely remove the need to prick your finger entirely. CGMs will also need to be replaced every week or so.
Q: What other benefits are there to using a CGM?
A: One of the best features is the alert feature. A person can be quickly alerted if their glucose levels are getting too high or too low. It’s also possible to download data and analyze trends to see if there are behaviors affecting your blood glucose.
Q: How early can you use a CGM?
A: Typically, people under the age of 2 shouldn’t use a CGM. Each CGM can be different and have a different minimum age requirement.
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