Continuous Glucose Monitoring
Diabetes care has come a long way in the past few years. The last decade has seen improvements in nearly every area, from better medications to insulin pumps. Glucose monitors have also undergone changes, allowing more accurate testing. One helpful tool that has emerged is continuous glucose monitoring.
What is continuous glucose monitoring?
It’s actually just what it sounds like. A tiny sensor inserted under your skin tracks your glucose levels in your interstitial fluid (the layer under your skin but before your blood) in real time, twenty-four hours per day. Sensor glucose readings are typically taken about every five minutes, which adds up to about 288 readings each day. This gives you ongoing information that you simply can’t get otherwise.
Continuous monitoring lets you know when your glucose levels are rising or falling—and how fast. It can reveal patterns you might not notice with finger sticks. And it can help you and your care team make the best decisions about medication and treatment.
How does it work?
The continuous glucose monitoring system consists of a sensor, a transmitter, and a receiver. The sensor is fastened to the transmitter and measures glucose levels just under your skin. The transmitter sends the readings to the receiver wirelessly without any wires or cords. The receiver then displays the readings as a graph. This makes it easy to see your highs and lows, and when your glucose is going up or down.
Do you still have to do finger sticks?
Yes. Continuous monitoring isn’t meant to replace finger sticks, it’s meant to complement them. Where finger sticks give you a picture of your glucose levels at any given moment, continuous monitoring shows you the big picture. It can let you know that your glucose levels are falling, and sound an alarm that alerts you before they get too low. You can also program the receiver to alert you when your glucose is getting too high.
The alarm feature can warn you of a problem before it happens. You can set it to whatever range your diabetes care team suggests, and the alarm will sound when your glucose levels creep into the unhealthy range. This lets you take action before the problem becomes serious. Without continuous monitoring, you might never catch these trends until they become a serious problem.
You’ll still need to do a finger stick before taking any medication, but continuous monitoring can help you avoid highs and lows before they happen. You will also need to do several daily finger sticks to calibrate the system.
Continuous glucose monitoring can be an invaluable tool. Just as a home movie gives you more information than a photograph, continuous glucose monitoring gives you more information than a single finger stick. And the more information you have, the better treatment decisions you and your team can make.