Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Diabetic Monitoring Systems

As a Diabetic the first thing you learn is the daily tracking of the level of glucose in the blood for proper diabetes management. 

Back in the 70's when the self-test systems were developed, they used a sample of blood which was chemically analyzed by the device. We've come a long way since then, the devices are smaller, more accurate and require less blood.

Currently Diabetics have a Choice of Monitoring Devices:

1. Until recently the most common monitor was a small test strip coated with chemicals to perform the test.  You pricked your finger with a lancet, and the blood drop is put on the strip, then fed into a hand held device. Seconds later there is a readout of the glucose level.

2. The best current devices allow drawing blood from areas other than the finger - Continual pricking can lead to scarring and loss of sensitivity. Another problem with pricking is running out of fingers to use, which leads to more difficulty drawing blood, and yet more discomfort. Talk to your physician about these new patient-friendly monitoring devices.

3. Other monitoring devices use a laser to make a small, painless hole in the skin. A droplet of blood oozes out for smearing onto a test strip, and you feel only a slight tingling sensation in the finger during the test. Needles are eliminated which is more sanitary and safe.

4. Devices that work while you sleep. No one wants to wake up in the middle of the night to prick a finger.  Diabetics can buy a watch that monitors glucose level and alerts the wearer by an alarm if blood sugar levels rise.

5. And still more advanced devices require drawing no blood at all. It senses the glucose level through the skin by use of an infrared beam.

6. Diabetics with hard to manage diabetes have insulin pumps that give a continual drip of insulin 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. - which is a life saver to many whose levels are hard to control. 

7. And just recently the Mayo Clinic has been working on a way to make blood-sugar monitoring easier by using fluid from the eye. I have no more details on this - my doctor mentioned this to me on my last visit.

Pros and Cons of Current Devices:

One of the pros of these new devices is the ability to store results over time which helps compare glucose levels on an ongoing basis.

You can also download results to a PC and graph the data which makes the tracking process even more valuable to you and your physician. When looking for a new monitoring device, shop around and get one that will give what you need for the best monitoring. 

On the con side, most require a blood sample drawn from the body. The discomfort and sometime inconvenience that many experience cause diabetics to only use them once per day, rather than the recommended three times daily.

Sometimes you can get inaccurate readings if they're not calibrated and maintained properly. They need to be cleaned from time to time, in order to prevent old blood and chemicals from contaminating the device and throwing off the readings.

Cheers to technology helping those with Diabetes monitor this disease

C. Thompkins
Diabetic, Senior & Black
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