UK HealthCast: Dr. Derick Adams on a helpful new device for glucose monitoring
UK HealthCast is a podcast series featuring interviews with UK HealthCare experts on a variety of health-related topics, from how to recognize stroke symptoms to what patients need to know about clinical trials and more.
We spoke with Dr. Adams about continuous glucose monitors, relatively new devices that make it easier for those with diabetes to track glucose levels, aiding the important effort to keep blood sugar levels in their target range.
What is a continuous glucose monitor and what does it do?
Continuous glucose monitors — or CGM for short — are an important tool to help people manage their diabetes. It's a small electronic device that patients with diabetes usually wear 24 hours a day. You can take it off to bathe in the shower. It's about an inch in size, so it's not very cumbersome to the patient.
The CGM will monitor the blood glucose levels every five minutes, and then send that information to a receiver or even the patient's smartphone. It's very convenient for the patients to monitor their blood sugars, and it prevents patients from having to do finger sticks so often. It also gives a patient with diabetes much more information about their blood sugars in real time.
How new are these devices? Can you tell us more about how they work?
It's only been around for the last eight years or so. It's quickly becoming one of our most important tools to help patients manage diabetes.
Most of the current CGMs use an app that will pair directly to a smartphone. They can also pair with a smartwatch. It's very cool. The patient can look at their watch and tell their blood sugar, just like they were telling time.
Most patients wear it on their stomach. You can also wear it on your arm or leg. Again, it's a small device connected with a simple adhesive, similar to a band-aid.
How do CGMs compare to traditional glucometers?
They're just as reliable. Unlike a traditional glucometer – which just reads your blood sugar whenever you check it – you can basically get your blood sugar reading anytime you want.
When CGMS first came out, you used to have to calibrate them with a finger stick, but as the technology has advanced that's not even necessary for the majority of CGMs. The patient doesn't even have to calibrate the CGM at this point. Sometimes we tell patients that if their blood sugar doesn't look right, or if they're suspicious the CGM may be off for some reason, to go ahead and do a finger stick so they can verify the reading is right.
The majority of the time the CGMs are dead-on, and the nice thing about them is they have alarms. The patient can go in and set an alarm to get notified if a blood sugar is too high or too low. There’s a lot of safety, and I've seen people's lives saved because they were notified of the low blood sugar by the CGM.
Listen to the full podcast with Dr. Adams: