Many patients with diabetes can manage their blood glucose levels effectively with diet, exercise and daily fingerstick testing for blood sugar levels. However, when blood glucose readings fluctuate significantly on a regular basis, it may be helpful to monitor the changes in blood sugar levels more frequently. Continuous blood glucose monitoring systems provide blood sugar readings at regular intervals throughout the day. Generally designed to take readings every five minutes, these systems can provide an exceptional degree of information to medical personnel in order to help them create a treatment plan specifically designed for the individual patient.
Technologically advanced help for diabetes
In order to learn about the risks and benefits of a glucose monitor, most patients should discuss these advanced monitoring systems with their primary care physician. Continuous glucose monitors, or CGMs, provide an unparalleled degree of information and can offer an added level of protection for patients in managing their blood sugar levels more effectively. These monitoring systems consist of three parts:
• Sensor – This small needle-like device fits just under the skin, in contact with the bloodstream, and takes readings at regular intervals throughout the day.
• Transmitter – The transmitter fits snugly atop the sensor and relays the blood glucose data through a wireless connection directly to the receiver for decoding and display.
• Receiver – This compact device receives the readings, deciphers them and displays them. The receiver typically also includes a data storage system to record the readings for download in the clinical setting and an alert feature that sounds when abnormally high or low glucose readings are detected.
For patients who are able to tolerate the presence of the sensor, CGM systems provide an exceptional source of information on the patient’s individual blood glucose cycles and levels throughout the day and night. This can provide valuable insight into proper treatment regimens.
CGMs vs. fingerstick testing
Fingerstick testing is usually performed once or twice per day. The cost of performing repeated fingerstick tests would be prohibitive; additionally, it is impractical to perform these tests during regular sleeping hours. CGM systems offer a more convenient and practical way to gather the necessary data. While fingerstick tests are still necessary to calibrate and ensure the accuracy of the CGM system, they cannot provide the same level of insight and information as these technologically advanced systems.
In many cases, CGMs can provide physicians with the added data necessary to determine the right course of treatment for the individual patient. Some diabetes patients may benefit from the extra protection these systems provide against low blood sugar readings that may occur when fingerstick testing is unlikely or impractical. By incorporating these advanced diagnostic systems into everyday diabetes management, patients and physicians can work together to gain a greater degree of control over this serious medical condition.