Continuous glucose monitoring can make managing diabetes much easier, but it comes with its own unique set of drawbacks. So what exactly are the pros and cons of transitioning to this type of system? Whether you're diabetic or have a family member or friend who is, it's important to understand how continuous monitoring works and whether it's a good fit.
What Is Continuous Glucose Monitoring?
Glucose monitoring is absolutely vital for people with diabetes. By successfully managing blood glucose (also called blood sugar) levels, diabetics can avoid many complications associated with the disease. By knowing their glucose levels, diabetics can make informed decisions about medication, physical activity, and food and drink choices.
Traditionally, people with diabetes prick their fingertip to get a blood sample and then use a glucose meter to measure their levels. Continuous glucose monitoring is different. With this system, a tiny sensor that checks glucose levels in your tissue fluid is inserted under your skin. Your glucose level readings are sent to a wireless monitor, and readings can be sent as often as once a minute, according to the National Institutes of Health. Users can also be alerted when their levels are too low or too high.
What Are the Benefits?
With continuous monitoring, you don't have to prick your finger multiple times a day. You don't have to worry about forgetting to check your blood sugar levels or having to interrupt meetings or appointments. Instead, your levels are monitored in real time. This continuous stream of information can provide a better understanding of the effect that food, exercise, sleep, and insulin have on your glucose levels. It can also help you detect asymptomatic changes that you might have otherwise missed. As the US Endocrinology journal pointed out, this can also be beneficial for youth and children who are less likely to submit to multiple finger pricks every day.
What Are the Disadvantages?
There are some disadvantages to continuous glucose monitoring. First, it's more expensive than traditional finger prick systems and not all health insurance covers it. The internal sensor has to be changed frequently, and the system must be recalibrated periodically with a traditional finger stick. There's also a risk of skin infection and false alarms. It might also be a tougher sell for youth and children because of appearance concerns and resentment about being constantly monitored.
As technology improves, the disadvantages associated with continuous glucose monitoring may diminish. According to an article in Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics, companies are working on long-term internal sensors. Future sensors may also be factory-calibrated, rather than user-calibrated, which could reduce errors and false alarms.
Continuous glucose monitoring can make a diabetic's life easier. But using it also requires some sacrifices on the patient's part. As with all medical treatments and devices, you should consult your doctor for more information on which options work best for you and your unique needs.