Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Glucose Meters: What's on the Horizon?

Contact lenses, tattoos, infrared light, and smart sensors will detect your glucose level in the "ouchless" future.
By
WebMD Feature

If you've got diabetes, regular blood glucose (sugar) testing is a fact of life. And getting your all-important glucose level has become easier. Today's glucose meters are more sensitive, and require less blood -- which likely equates with less pain. That advance has been a big one for people with diabetes. But will the "ouch" ever go away?

Researchers are hard at work -- developing special contact lenses, fluorescent "tattoos," infrared devices, and smart sensors to decipher your glucose levels -- with them being "ouchless" as their goal. In some cases, no blood testing is required -- maybe one prick at the most.

Recommended Related to Diabetes

The Dieter’s (and Diabetic Person's) Guide to Buying Chocolate

How can you get your daily chocolate fix -- and eat less sugar or calories, too? That's a million-dollar question that several companies are banking on people asking. Over the past few years, the sugar-free and portion-controlled chocolate market has exploded. There are all sorts of sugar-free versions of favorite chocolate bars. And you can now buy individually wrapped chocolate bars or sticks in 60- to 100-calorie portions, along with the ever-popular kisses. To help you decide among all...

Read the The Dieter’s (and Diabetic Person's) Guide to Buying Chocolate article > >

Guenther Boden, MD, chief of endocrinology at Temple University School of Medicine, has monitored developments in this field over the last few decades.

"The GlucoWatch Biographer seemed like the answer," Boden tells WebMD. "The underside of the watch has a membrane that can suck interstitial fluid through the skin; get 'juice' out of skin, so to speak. And that's what you need to measure glucose; you need to get some body fluid. The technology seems to work. But skin irritation has been a problem for some people."

That problem is being corrected, says Audrey Finkelstein, a spokeswoman for Animas Corporation, the product's maker. "We are presently working on Biographer III, which will combine the Biographer with tiny microneedles that will extract fluid to provide a better blood sample than is possible with other technologies. It will also greatly reduce or even eradicate skin irritation."

Products like GlucoWatch are good at alerting patients to impending danger -- especially necessary during sleep hours. "It's a dangerous thing for people to buy a product like this, thinking they won't need to do finger sticks anymore ... You simply can't replace finger stick testing if you want to be safe and healthy," Finkelstein tells WebMD.

Another device that tracks glucose trends -- Medtronic's continuous glucose monitoring device, the "Guardian," which received FDA approval in February 2004. That device isn't very patient-friendly, says Boden. It provides data that is downloadable by physicians, so that 72-hour glucose trends can be monitored. But patients don't get any immediate readings. Also, measurements during night hours have been inaccurate. Medtronic "is working very hard to solve that problem," Boden tells WebMD.

Indeed, a refined version of that device is in clinical trials in Europe right now, says Deanne McLaughlin, of Medtronic Diabetes. Continuous glucose monitoring "has given patients a better understanding of the impact of their treatment, diet, and activity levels on their glucose levels," McLaughlin tells WebMD. Regarding the refined device, "we are very excited about 'real-time' readings and the potential ... for helping patients improve their blood sugar control."

Beyond that, "We're really still at the finger-sticking stage," Boden tells WebMD. "There are a zillion different machines to measure blood, and they have gotten better. The biggest advance is that the new types use much less blood. That means you don't have to stick your finger -- you can stick the underside of your arm, where it doesn't hurt. The pain sensors in your arm are very far apart, whereas they're very dense in your fingertip. That's made the biggest difference."

As for new meters in the development pipeline, the jury is still out. Here are a few that caught our attention.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 and you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Woman holding cake
Slideshow
feet
Slideshow
 
man organizing pills
Slideshow
Close up of eye
Slideshow
 

Woman serving fast food from window
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Video
 
Middle aged person
Tool
are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article
 

WebMD Special Sections