health care instruments

Continuous Blood Glucose Monitors

If you don’t like pricking your finger or arm three to ten times a day to test your blood sugar then a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) may be a good alternative. The CGM is not a complete replacement for your glucose meter, but an added protection against extreme high or low blood sugars, and a good way to monitor the trends and fluctuations of your blood sugars over time. It can display blood glucose values continuously, but glucose meters still provide more accurate readings.

The CGM continuously monitors and records fluctuations in your blood glucose levels. It helps you to know whether changes in the diet, medication, treatment or physical activity are needed.

A CGM unit has three components: a sensor, a transmitter and a wireless monitor. The sensor is inserted under the skin and except for the finger it’s the same sites you’ve been using if you inject insulin or use a pump. Placing the sensor is usually quick and relatively painless.

The transmitter is hooked to the sensor and sends information to the pager-sized monitor every ten seconds or so. The monitor then displays your blood glucose values. The transmitter is rechargeable and should be recharged every couple of days. It’s also water resistant so you don’t have to remove it for bathing, exercising or swimming.

A nice feature of CGM systems is its alarm signal. This sure beats being alarmed by feeling shaky or sweaty. The alarm lets you know whenever your blood glucose levels go below or above whatever you set.

You replace the CGM every three to seven days, depending on the brand and manufacturer. You can take all the stored data and download it to your computer. This information can be analyzed, charted and graphed to show you and your doctor the trends and fluctuations of your blood glucose levels.

Although the results recorded by the CGM are generally accurate, these should still be checked with a blood glucose monitor from time to time for calibration.

Another advantage of using a continuous glucose monitoring system is that fluctuations as well as trends in glucose levels are identified more constantly. There are changes in your blood glucose that are too often overlooked by other test meters and methods. For example, the CGM can monitor dangerous changes in blood glucose levels while you are sleeping. That means fewer rude awakenings.

It also keeps a record of your sugars in-between and after meals, and during and after exercise. This kind of information can provide you and your diabetes health care team with critical information. With it, better decisions can be made about changes in treatment, medication or lifestyle.

CGM systems are expensive and are not yet perfected. Inconsistencies in the data are still common. So you will still need to calibrate your CGM with your blood glucose meter. But the advantages of continuous blood glucose monitoring can often outweigh the disadvantages in added protection against highs and lows, as well as the information it provides.