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Diabetes: Technologies Make Management Easier
If you have diabetes, you are not alone. There are many Americans who have either type 1 (insulin-dependent) or type 2 (non-insulin dependent) diabetes. Effective treatment requires vigilant monitoring to keep glucose levels in a healthy range. Chronically elevated glucose in the blood can lead to serious eye, kidney, heart, and nerve disease. Fortunately, there are technologies that offer convenient ways to manage the disease and prevent complications.
Continuous Glucose Monitor
The standard way of measuring blood glucose involves taking a blood sample from your fingertip and using a meter to check your glucose levels. But there are advanced systems, called continuous glucose monitors (CGM), that offer more convenience and less pain. With a CGM, you place a tiny sensor under your skin. This sensor, which needs to be replaced every few days, measures glucose levels and sends the information to a wireless device that you wear. You can program the monitor; for example, it can take measurements every 5 minutes and sound an alarm if your levels become too high or too low. This device works around the clock.
Depending on the product, the information stored on the device can be downloaded to a computer. Special software allows you to track your levels and identify trends, providing important data to share with your doctor. Additionally, some devices allow you to press a button to record events, like when you give yourself an insulin shot, have a meal, or exercise. This information gets captured to create a picture of your diabetes management.
The downside of CGMs is that they may not be as accurate as the standard meters and finger prick samples. However, as technology advances, so do CGMs. Real time alarms, accuracy, and reliability help users maintain better glucose control while avoiding pitfalls like hypoglycemia.
Combined Systems: CGM and Insulin Pump
While insulin pumps have been around for several decades, there are other products that pair the pump with the CGM. This system is comprised of a sensor and glucose monitor, an insulin pump, and tubing that is inserted under the skin to deliver insulin. The monitor transmits information wirelessly to the pump, which has a calculator to determine how much insulin you should receive. The dose is based on a number of factors, like the time and amount of your last insulin dose, your current blood glucose level, and the amount of carbs that you plan to eat. By combining technologies, these advanced products are designed to help you manage your diabetes by automatically fine-tuning the insulin dose, avoiding calculation errors, and adding convenience.
Advances in technology play a key role. Newer combined systems take the best of both methods to help stabilize your glucose levels. Fine-tuning of insulin dosing make glucose control in everyday life easier and safer.
Home A1C Test
The A1C (also called the glycosolated hemoglobin or HbA1c) test shows the glucose levels in your body over the past 2-3 months. This test is important because it gives you and your doctor an overall view of how well you are managing diabetes and whether you need changes to your treatment plan.
In the past, you had to visit your doctor to have this test done. Now, you can check your A1C levels at home using a finger prick test with results available within minutes—no waiting in the doctor’s office and no waiting for results to return from the lab.
The accuracy of these home tests may vary, though. If you are interested in using one, your doctor can recommend a product and teach you how to use it. Remember that home monitoring only allows you to take the test at home. It is important to follow-up with your doctor who will make any adjustments to the amount of insulin you need.
Researchers are constantly working on new treatments, some of which have already been used successfully by people with diabetes throughout the world. Of course, the ultimate solution for people who are insulin-dependent would be to enable the body to make its own insulin again. Better methods for transplanting healthy islet cells (insulin producers of the pancreas) or coaxing stem (embryonic) cells to produce insulin may one day offer a cure for diabetes. Even without a cure, today's products have brought diabetes management a long way since the discovery of insulin in 1921.
American Diabetes Association
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Canadian Diabetes Association
Public Health Agency of Canada
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HbA1c measurement. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 23, 2014. Accessed July 16, 2015.
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- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 06/2015
- Update Date: 10/03/2013