New tech solutions offer real time monitoring for diabetics

New ‘continuous monitors’ limit the need for finger-prick glucose checks and can be life-changing for people with type 1 diabetes. 

Now, some doctors believe they may also be useful for those with type 2 diabetes, as people can observe how different foods and exercises affect their blood glucose levels, to help them modify behaviours. 

What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

With type 1 diabetes, the body produces no insulin, the hormone that helps regulate blood glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes occurs when insulin stops working effectively.

Sue Ritchie, 70, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2000, and would often experience life-threatening blood glucose lows in the middle of the night. 

“I would wake up, probably having been unconscious, with no idea where I was,” says Sue. “I was going low no matter what I was doing with my medication.”

Finger-prick checking couldn’t prevent this dangerous drop in blood glucose for Sue, as her life depended on her monitoring her levels 24/7. Now, continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) and Flash glucose monitoring (Flash GM) lets users instantly read current glucose levels, and shows them if their readings are remaining steady, or headed up, or down, and how fast, so they can take action. 

How do continuous glucose monitors work for diabetes patients?

Both systems involve a small sensor, which the user inserts just under the skin, to measure glucose levels at regular intervals. Results are viewed on a smartphone or reader. While Flash GM is newer and simpler in design, CGM can sound an alarm if glucose levels are too high or too low, and be attached to an insulin pump.

How much do these glucose monitoring systems cost? 

CGM products cost up to $5,000 annually, and last year the federal government increased its eligibility criteria for subsidies of the device for people with type 1 diabetes. As a pensioner, Sue is eligible for access to free CGM, and it has changed her life. 

“I can go to bed at night and think, ‘Well, gee, I might wake up tomorrow!’” 

Go to Diabetes Australia for more information.

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