Diabetes glucose monitoring without finger pricks: new way forward?

Diabetes is a condition that now affects over four million people in the UK and can hugely affect the quality of life and life expectancy of those who have it.

Continuous glucose monitoring - what is it?

You may have heard from the news or via advertisements about new ways which enable people with diabetes to monitor their blood sugars without involving finger pricks.

So how do these new devices work?

The first of the new devices became available in the UK in 2014. It consists of a small very sticky white disc approximately the size of a 50 pence coin; a tiny sensor tube is inserted into the arm with the help of a tiny needle that is then removed. The disc can remain in place for two weeks before it needs replacing.

The system also includes a scanning device which is of a similar appearance to other blood glucose testing devices that use a finger prick. The device simply is held within 4 cm of the sensor and it can read out all blood sugar levels that have been recorded over the previous eight hours. The system can take up to 288 readings in a 24-hour period.

This gives the wearer the opportunity to check levels very frequently, without the pain of finger pricks and even can monitor glucose levels during sleep. The sensor can even be set to have alarms that go off if a person's blood sugar is too high or low.

Even more recently systems have been developed which measure glucose levels every few minutes and allow real-time adjustment of insulin therapy by increasing or decreasing the dosage.

This is a huge step forwards, but there are some drawbacks...

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