Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) – What is it and how has the technology evolved over the years?
In a world where technology has allowed for all things smart, wireless, and real-time, why would diabetes management be any different?
With the evolution of Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) technology, diabetes patients have been able to streamline and simplify how they track and control their blood glucose levels. CGM systems provide immediate glucose level readings and allow for a more comprehensive picture of glucose trends than with traditional methods. These devices can enhance the user’s quality of life and allow for better treatment of their medical condition, giving them a fresh perspective on their diabetes management experience.
What is Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM)?
Continuous Glucose Monitoring is a method that utilizes wearable technology and makes it easier to track blood glucose, or blood sugar levels over time. This technology is particularly helpful for people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, as it enables them to monitor glucose levels throughout the day and night. It is very popular in both clinical healthcare and home care settings.
While CGM systems are not always necessary to manage diabetes, they allow for improved quality of life due to ease of use, real-time monitoring, and a decreased need for finger pricks.
Continuous Glucose Monitoring systems were first introduced in the late 1990’s as a wearable alternative to the traditional blood glucose meter. The traditional meter requires blood glucose levels to be checked periodically via finger prick. However, only a small amount of data can be captured. Alternatively, Continuous Glucose Monitoring systems enable trend analysis and continuous data gathering throughout a 24-hour period.
How does it work?
Continuous Glucose Monitoring consists of a wearable system that measures glucose levels in the patient’s body. The device includes a tiny sensor that is placed under the skin, typically on the arm or abdomen. This sensor continuously monitors glucose levels in the interstitial fluid (i.e., fluid between the cells).
Once placed, the sensor begins measuring the user’s glucose level and sends the data to an electronic monitor, smartphone, or tablet wirelessly. This enables the patient to track their glucose levels in real-time, identify blood glucose trends, and self-administer insulin when it is needed.
Insulin is a hormone that helps our bodies regulate blood sugar levels. If a diabetic has Type 1 diabetes, their body does not produce enough of the hormone insulin. Conversely, with Type 2 diabetes, the body makes insulin but does not use it effectively. Fluctuations in blood sugar cause diabetics to have hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
Most CGM devices also have alarms and alerts that are customizable and notify the user when glucose levels approach dangerous highs or lows. People with diabetes need to self-administer insulin regularly when their levels fluctuate to ensure that their blood sugar remains in a safe range.
What are some advantages of Continuous Glucose Monitoring?
Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) can be very beneficial when managing the health and wellness of diabetes patients. As technology evolves to make glucose monitoring easier and more efficient for CGM users, it also adds to the number of growing advantages associated with wearing a monitoring device. Some of these benefits include:
Immediate Feedback – CGMs can deliver real-time data about blood glucose levels. This enables the user to track how their levels change throughout the day and understand how their body responds to exercise, meals, and medications.
Trend Analysis – The monitors can identify trends and patterns that routine finger-pricks may miss, like fluctuations that occur overnight and between mealtimes.
Early Alerts of Hypoglycemia and Hyperglycemia – This type of monitoring can alert patients of quickly changing blood glucose levels. This, in turn, could help prevent dangerous blood sugar levels that are associated with high and low blood sugar.
Decreased Need for Finger-Pricks – While there are CGM devices that still require regular calibration via finger prick, CGMs reduce the frequency of finger pricks needed daily.
Improved Glycemic Control – Users can work with their healthcare providers to evaluate stored CGM data and adjust their treatment plan. This could result in better overall glycemic control.
- Better Quality of Life – Automated glucose monitoring can help reduce stress and caretaking responsibilities related to diabetes management for users, family members, and healthcare providers, leading to improved quality of life.
One additional advantage Continuous Glucose Monitoring offers is that many CGM systems have technology that can interface with insulin pumps. This allows for insulin delivery to be automatically adjusted based on real-time blood glucose readings.
What role has technology played in the evolution of CGMs?
Advancements in Continuous Glucose Monitoring technology continue to transform diabetes management. While early glucose monitoring required large devices, new developments and automation have made it possible to design smaller, more wearable devices. These new devices include features such as wireless connectivity to smart devices, advanced sensor accuracy, and real-time data. The features work together so alerts can be sent if glucose levels are not optimal, enabling the user to evaluate the need for insulin and make dietary decisions. They also allow for easy integration with insulin pumps, closed loop systems and artificial pancreas systems.
Additionally, complex algorithms are used to study historical CGM data and generate graphs to predict future glucose level trends. The blood glucose data is displayed in user-friendly interfaces and applications. This information can then be shared wirelessly with healthcare providers, caretakers, and family members.
Today, Continuous Glucose Monitoring devices empower diabetes patients to take greater control of their health. While CGMs may not be suitable for everyone, advanced technology allows glucose monitoring to be more efficient and user-friendly in the world of diabetes management. Real-time data enables users to make informed decisions about their treatment needs, resulting in a better overall patient experience. Better glycemic control can improve the quality of life for diabetics, making CGM devices a win for healthcare providers, caretakers, and users alike.