Diabetes and Glucose Monitoring Technology
Padigar Tantry, MD
34.2 million adults in the United States, or approximately 11.3% of the population, have diabetes. Insulin is the critical hormone involved with diabetes, as it helps your body regulate blood sugar levels. If you have Type 1 diabetes, your body does not produce enough insulin. Whereas if you have Type 2 diabetes, your body makes insulin, but does not utilize it effectively. Many people with diabetes need to give themselves insulin regularly in order to ensure their blood sugar levels are steady. Tracking blood glucose enables diabetics to determine how much insulin their bodies need and when they need it.
Insulin was invented around 100 years ago, and since that time, the technology to combat diabetes and its complications has also been evolving rapidly. In 1965 Ames developed the first blood glucose test strip. While other options like glucose meters have been around since 1970, the continuous glucose monitor (CGM), which received FDA approval in 1999, is designed to provide personalized care and a bigger picture of how diabetes impacts each individual patient.
A CGM is a tiny wearable tool that helps track your blood glucose levels. It consists of a sensor placed directly under the skin, usually on the stomach or arm, which is connected to a transmitter. The sensor measures your glucose levels in the fluid beneath the skin, and transmits that information to an app on your phone or to a separate handheld reader. This technology allows you to get your glucose reading every few minutes, 24 hours a day. The glucose readings can be plotted on a graph where you can see your current glucose levels, as well as any trends. As the CGM checks your levels on an almost constant basis, most need to be changed every 7-14 days in exchange for a new monitor.
These continuous glucose level readings can be extremely helpful in teaching you how factors like medications, certain foods, exercise, and stress impact your daily glucose levels. Since diabetes affects everyone differently, having a detailed reading helps you determine which individual factors may impact your blood glucose levels specifically. Your provider can also use the data from the CGM report to make changes in your diabetes regimen accordingly. Some of the newer CGMs also include alarms for high and low sugar levels, a feature that proves advantageous for alerting patients to spikes or dips. You can also choose to share your CGM data with your family members, who can help predict and manage dangerous highs and lows to keep you within the target range.
Studies have shown Type 1 diabetics greatly benefit from CGMs with improved glucose control, quality of life, and overall health outcomes. For Type 2 diabetics, a CGM is most useful for those on multiple daily insulin injections and those at risk for low sugars. Current CGMs on the market include the Freestyle Libre 2 & 3, Dexcom G6, Guardian Sensors, and Eversense. Your choice of continuous glucose monitor may depend on your preference, ease of usability, and insurance coverage.
Choosing the best method to monitor glucose levels is a personal decision. Whatever your preference may be, it is comforting to know technology is continuing to evolve to give diabetics the best possible quality of life. For more information about continuous glucose monitors and whether they are right for you, reach out to the Diabetes & Nutrition Institute at HopeHealth to become a patient by calling (843) 667-9414 or visit us online at hope-health.org.
Dr. Tantry serves endocrinology patients at HopeHealth Medical Plaza in Florence. He earned a doctorate from Tbilisi State Medical University in Tbilisi, Georgia. He completed an internal medicine residency at USF Morsani College of Medicine/HCA West Florida Consortium in Brandon, Florida, and an endocrinology fellowship at USF Morsani College of Medicine in Tampa, Florida. Board certified in internal medicine, Dr. Tantry speaks English, Hindi, Oriya, and Kannada.