Technical Thursday: 1/26/2017

Continuous Glucose Monitors

If you checked out my about/bio section, you know finding a cure for Type 1 Diabetes is near-and-dear to my heart – my wife has suffered with Type 1 Diabetes for over 15 years. And while there’s a daily struggle raising a kid, dealing with me (I’m not that bad) and living her own life, imagine attempting to manage a disease that affects everything from mood to energy to appetite. It’s difficult and stressful. There’s a constant worry in the “back of your mind” that your blood glucose (BG) levels will either be too low (<70 mg/dl) or too high (>100 mg/dl). Imagine, as a normal person, you eat all the carbs you want and you BG level increases by a few points. Not a big deal at all. On the opposite end, you exercise for an hour, fully exerting yourself and your BG level decreases by a few points. Again, no problem at all. It’s highly probable that you’ve never even thought or knew that anything was going on inside your body due to carbohydrate intake and insulin production.

Now, think about your daily life and then add in the worry of monitoring your BG level before and after every meal, in between meals, when you wake up, before you go to sleep, in the middle of the night – literally every single moment of your life. Prior to a few years ago, the only method to monitor, or “check”, your blood was to use a BG meter like the one pictured below.

To use one: insert a disposable test strip into the meter, prick your finger using a lancet (drawing a small drop of blood), and then placing the blood on the test strip. As I said before, BG levels are always on a diabetics’ mind and they “check” their BG using this method several times per day (sometimes as many as 12+). It’s a process that stops your life.

Thankfully, there’s new technology on the market known as a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM).  These awesome systems “check” a wearer’s glucose levels on a continuous basis (generally every few minutes). Typical systems include a glucose sensor placed just under the skin, a transmitter which communicates to a radio receiver and a receiver. In systems like the Dexcom G4 (see the featured image) and G5 (see below), the sensor and transmitter are in one device and the receiver can be your smartphone (iPhone only at this time). CGM technology is a HUGE step forward in diabetes management. However, until recently you still needed to prick your finger to confirm that the CGM was displaying an accurate reading. And now the best news so far, amazingly, Dexcom received FDA approval to allow wearers of the G5 to make treatment decisions based purely on the readings of their CGMs (still need to prick for calibration). It’s truly amazing how far medical device technology has advanced in recent years.

In the near future we will continue to see significant advancements in diabetes management. From closed loop systems to bionic pancreases to artificial pancreases, if we do not find a traditional cure for diabetes, technology could be the solution to a stress-reduced life.

If you guys have any additional questions or need some more information, please comment or email. My wife is a Certified Diabetes Educator and is more than happy to help or point you in the right direction.




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