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.
About two years ago, when Anne Tierney learned she had type 2 diabetes, it
galvanized her. “My diagnosis came as a shock,” says Tierney, who was then
about 40 pounds overweight. “I used to eat chocolate all the time. The day I
was diagnosed, I quit.” She also consulted a nutritionist and hired a personal
trainer. “I knew I had to take action,” recalls Tierney, 51, director of
corporate gifts for Halls Crown Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Her action plan was in keeping with the latest research on...
Guenther Boden, MD, chief of endocrinology at Temple University School of
Medicine, has monitored developments in this field over the last few
"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
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
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.
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Your level is currently
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.
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.
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