Diabetes can make huge demands on
you. For many patients, the daily routine involves painful finger sticks,
glucose tests, and insulin injections -- all in an effort to keep blood sugar
and diabetes under control.
But newer devices, such as
continuous glucose monitors, may make it easier for many of the nation's 21
million people with diabetes to control the disease, according to Aaron
Kowalski, PhD. Director of strategic research projects at the Juvenile Diabetes Research
Foundation. Kowalski is himself a type 1 diabetes patient. "We think there are
some new technologies that hold tremendous promise," he says. "It's an exciting
Even before you notice symptoms, high blood sugar can damage parts of your
body. That's why certain diabetes
tests to check blood sugar control and to catch problems early are so
But many patients aren't getting key diabetes tests at least annually,
such as the hemoglobin A1c test, a dilated
eye exam, and a foot exam.
"If you look at the nationwide data, it's sobering," says Enrico
Cagliero, MD, a diabetes researcher and assistant professor of medicine at
Harvard Medical School...
Not all new devices make it, though. Some have fizzled after the fanfare.
The GlucoWatch was a wristwatch-like device that measured glucose from fluid
through the skin. Many hoped it would replace
the difficult finger stick. "The expectations were extremely high," says
Kowalski. "But it was disappointing on many levels."
Among the problems? Skin irritation and inaccurate readings.
But Kowalski and other experts predict that newer technologies that aim to
help people control their diabetes may fare much better. And controlling
diabetes is very important. Over time, long-term, high blood sugar can lead to
eye, heart, kidney, and nerve disease and other complications. Low blood sugar can also
quickly trigger immediate emergencies, such as seizures, coma, and death.
Here's WebMD's roundup of some of the breakthroughs in diabetes control
New Diabetes Control Tools: Continuous Glucose Monitors
Many people with diabetes lance their fingers 2 or more times a day to check
glucose levels. But even with as many as 9 finger sticks a day, patients still
spend less than 30 percent of the day in a normal range, Kowalski says. "It's
often a teeter-totter that a person with diabetes stands on."
Now, imagine getting a glucose reading every 5 minutes. That's 288 readings
in 24 hours -- or almost 100 times what one would get with 3 finger sticks a
Thanks to the continuous glucose
monitors (CGMs), this is possible. With a CGM, the user inserts a disposable,
needle-like sensor under abdominal skin. The sensor measures glucose in tissue
fluid, not blood. The sensor then transmits the data every 5 minutes to
"It shows graphically what the patient's glucose level is doing in real time
24 hours a day," says Steve Sabicer, spokesman for Medtronic. (This is the
company that introduced the first CGM in 2005.)
When people can see glucose trends continuously, they can make "real-time"
decisions, says David Klonoff MD, FACP, Medical Director of the Diabetes
Research Institute at Mills-Peninsula Health Services in San Mateo, California.
For example, it helps them know when to inject insulin or to eat. "They can
take action right now. They spend less time with high blood sugar and less time
with low blood sugar."
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If the level is below 70 and you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.
People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.
Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.
However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.
Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.
One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
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