New continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) tools are helping individuals control their diabetes.
For people with diabetes, healthy blood sugar levels, also called glucose levels, are critical to feeling good and preventing long-term complications. For some individuals, and at different times in life, keeping those levels in balance can be a challenge.
Your blood glucose level is the amount of sugar in your blood. Glucose comes from the food you eat. It is broken down during digestion and transported through your blood to the cells and organs that need it.
With diabetes, your body has difficulty regulating glucose levels. When there is too much glucose in your blood, you may feel thirsty, have to urinate frequently and even experience blurred vision.
High levels of glucose over an extended time can lead to severe outcomes such as damaged veins and arteries or permanent damage to your eyes or kidneys.
If you have diabetes, your doctor or health care team will give you a target range for your blood glucose level.
Daily checks with a blood glucose monitor help ensure that your levels are on track. They tell you what your blood sugar level is at the moment of the test but, unfortunately, can miss up to 80 percent of the potentially dangerous highs and lows that can occur in a day.
The fluctuations often are noted in the hemoglobin A1c test, which typically is done every three to six months. The A1c tells you what your average blood glucose was during the two to three months before the test.
Changes in your health, diet, stress, medications and activity all play a role in your blood sugar levels. One of the greatest challenges for people learning to live with diabetes is to understand those relationships and make choices that keep blood glucose levels from spiking and dropping. CGMs fill in the blanks by providing a complete picture of your blood glucose levels.
There are a few varieties of monitors but, in general, they provide a constant reading of the blood sugar level in the interstitial tissue fluid under your skin. The glucose level of your interstitial tissue is closely tied to blood glucose levels.
The CGM includes a glucose sensor, a transmitter and a small, airtight external monitor - that may be built-in to an insulin pump or a stand-alone device - to view your glucose levels.
In just seconds, a diabetes educator inserts the monitoring wire under your skin with a small needle. The monitor easily is concealed against the abdomen and typically is worn for four to seven days.
While wearing the CGM, you should maintain your typical habits, good or bad. You also should keep a log of activities, exercise, food eaten, medications and even your emotions.
This data, the glucose levels and your log, is interpreted by your health care provider who can point out the impact of each choice you made. The information can help you maintain more consistent, healthier blood glucose levels.
Talk to your doctor about whether this new technology could be helpful in managing your diabetes.
McKernan is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator for Susquehanna Health's Diabetes & Nutrition Care Center.