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.
Sometimes, living with diabetes can seem like a full-time job -- trying to keep up with everything you need to do for proper diabetes care.
"Diabetes is a very time-consuming disease to manage well," says Karmeen Kulkarni, MS, RD, CDE, and former president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association. "The medication, the food, the physical activity -- you add life in general to that whole picture and it ends up being quite challenging."
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.
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If the level is below 70 or 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.
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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.
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