Checking your blood sugar is a pain – literally. Throughout the day, diabetics have to prick their fingers to monitor their sugar levels. At healthy, optimal function, the pancreas should release enough insulin to maintain sugar levels at around 100 milligrams per deciliter of blood.
In individuals with Type I diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. To regulate blood sugar, Type I diabetics rely on insulin injections or an insulin pump to increase the amount of insulin in their bodies.
In people with Type II diabetes, the body is no longer able to use insulin properly because cells have become resistant to absorbing insulin. Most Type II diabetics take oral medication to help control blood sugar. 95 percent of diabetes cases involve Type II.
Regularly checking your blood sugar allows you to take the appropriate amount of insulin or oral medication, and to make the best food choices based on your current numbers.
This is where the finger-pricking comes in. How do those blood sugar meters (glucometers) work anyway?
Current glucometers use test strips which are inserted into the meter. The strips contain glucose oxidase, which is an enzyme that reacts to the glucose in the blood sample. When the strip is inserted into the meter, the reaction between the two generates an electrical signal.
The electrical signal is read by the meter and its calibrator produces the number shown on the screen. The higher the glucose in the sample, the higher the electrical signal. This will cause a higher number to reflect on the screen.
Blood sugar testing is a crucial part of keeping healthy, however current methods do not allow for blood sugar to be monitored consistently. Depending upon when an individual chooses to test his or her sugar, a blood sugar spike or drop could be missed.
For example, if you test at 9 AM and 3 PM every day, if your blood sugar spiked at noon, you would never know it.
If we could catch those in-between times and intervene appropriately, blood sugar could be managed more effectively. In theory, this could lessen the long-term effects of the disease, including heart disease, kidney failure, neuropathy, blindness, even Alzheimer’s dementia.
Technology is advancing, however. The FDA has now approved the Dexcom G5 CGM (continuous glucose monitoring) system. This device operates on only two finger pricks per day!
These two daily finger pricks, (once every 12 hours), ensure that the device is calibrated correctly, and is giving accurate readings. Devices like this could save diabetics between four and six finger pricks a day! Not to mention saving money on expensive test strips!
“Although this system still requires calibration with two daily finger pricks, it eliminates the need for any additional finger pricks in order to make treatment decisions. This may allow some patients to manage their disease more comfortably,” said Alberto Gutierrez, a Director at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
The Dexcom G5 CGM measures blood sugar through a small sensor wire. Upon receiving the device, the individual chooses a placement site and inserts the sensor wire just under the skin. The wire monitors blood sugar levels continuously.
A transmitter worn on the skin receives the information from the wire. The information is then sent from the transmitter to the receiver (any compatible mobile device like a smartphone or a tablet.)
This makes your blood sugar readings available at a moment’s notice right at your fingertips.
If blood sugar levels go out of range, either too high or too low, an alarm is triggered. The transmitter on the skin, as well as, the connected mobile device will each sound an alarm. This alerts the individual (or a parent/family member) to the problem.
You can even add up to five followers to your device who will also receive alerts if your blood sugar goes to high or too low.
This will allow people to respond more quickly to a blood sugar emergency, simply because they are aware of it instantly. Not only are these readings valuable “in the moment”, they can also benefit one’s health long-term.
The FDA stated that these real-time blood sugar level readings can help individuals with diabetes and their healthcare team see trends in blood sugar. This could allow for more appropriate management of care and better health outcomes for the patient.
While regular finger pricks are a thing of the present, less painful, more comfortable testing options are on the horizon. Here’s to the future of technology, and the benefits to your health!