- What Makes Technology Such a Key Aspect in Diabetes Management?
- Wearable Diabetes Tech – What Is It, Exactly?
- Types of Wearable Tech for Diabetes
- Insulin Pump – What Makes It So Useful?
- Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) – How Can It Turn the Tide?
- Tips for Selecting the Right Diabetes Technology
Roughly 34.2 million American adults have diabetes.
About 7.3 million of these cases remain undiagnosed.
While 34.5% of the American adult population is struggling with prediabetes. That’s 88 million people in 2020. (1)
When we look at older statistics, we can see that diabetes is constantly on the rise.
In the 90s, diabetes prevalence jumped from 4.9% in 1990 to a staggering 6.5% in 1998. Today, glucose control is an even bigger issue. (2)
Physicians and patients are in constant need of new tools that can manage the increasing burden of diabetes.
Experts and manufacturers are studying wearable devices that can better control this condition.
Some of these options are FDA-approved. While others are yet to hit the market.
Here, we will take a closer look at the different types of this wearable technology. How they work, and whether they have what it takes to control the complexities of this condition.
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What Makes Technology Such a Key Aspect in Diabetes Management?
This chronic ailment requires on-time management, proper insulin delivery, and self-monitoring. In 2020, the global diabetes market size for wearable devices was valued at $25.9 billion.
Experts believe it’s going to skyrocket at a 6.6% annual growth rate from 2021 to 2028. (3)
North America remains the chief revenue-generating region. Because of the growing numbers in technological advances, it’s normal for the market to increase. Plus, with the soaring obesity cases, more and more devices became necessary. (4)
Technology is here to support diabetes self-management on a daily basis. With continuous glucose monitoring, a patient can better care for this chronic condition.
According to research, diabetes technology helps manage activities like taking medication, healthy eating, exercising, and monitoring complications. (5)
Diabetes technology is also here to motivate patients to take good care of their physical health.
The patient gets visual feedback, which they can later use to see how diabetes affects their behavior. This promotes better problem-solving and decision-making. It helps the patient make better treatment plans.
Wearable Diabetes Tech – What Is It, Exactly?
Continuous glucose monitoring is a crucial aspect of diabetes management. To properly gauge a person’s diabetes status, doctors use Hemoglobin A1C. This is a diagnostic test capable of analyzing the glucose level in the system.
The test provides key information that recognizes any anomalies in the glucose spikes. That includes long-term and short-term glucose patterns.
Although this test is the “bread & butter” of diagnosing diabetes, wearable technology provides continuous glucose observation. These products can drill down the daily, weekly, and hourly glucose patterns. Therefore, they make a great addition to a standard diagnostic test. (6)
Besides, diabetes care requires regular observation. With type 1 diabetes, glucose tends to spike over time. The blood sugar levels, along with insulin levels, tend to fluctuate.
These variables can happen anytime during the day. Like for example, after using certain medication.
So, technologies become that extra pair of hands that a patient needs. When they work properly, technologies can avoid long-term complications, including better glucose rates and insulin management.
Types of Wearable Tech for Diabetes
Extensive research shows that adequate metabolic control in all diabetes types delays the onset of complications.
Since 2018, the FDA has approved a couple of diabetes technologies that can help.
Wearable diabetes tech involves the use of:
- Automatic insulin pump
- Continuous glucose monitoring system (CGM)
The use of wearable and mobile tech also offered new opportunities for glucose monitoring. They are cheap and portable, which makes them incredibly popular. Although these wrist-worn devices are practical in assessing the condition, they are prone to errors.
That’s why the insulin pump and CGM remain some of the most useful products on the market. (7)
Insulin Pump – What Makes It So Useful?
Before automated insulin delivery was available, people used an insulin injection to keep their insulin in check.
They would need to self-inject the proper insulin dose. The insulin pump created convenience and efficiency. It also removed the need for manual insulin delivery.
Data shows that about 350,000 Americans use an insulin pump. Around 30,000 of these patients struggle with type 2 diabetes.
The most noteworthy models are Tandem t: slim X2, Insulet Omnipod DASH, and Roche Accu-Chek Spirit Combo. (8)
How Does It Work?
The pump is not bigger than a deck of cards. And people can wear it with ease. The catheter (or thin tube) provides adequate insulin delivery. With the use of a programmed mechanism, the product administers insulin.
First, it releases tiny doses of basal rate (short-acting) insulin. Then, a variable insulin dose when consuming a big meal, known as bolus.
Insulin pump therapy provides basal insulin in increments of 0.01 units per hour. Simply put, it mimics the human pancreas.
Although the supplies to ensure this kind of insulin delivery are still very expensive, insurance can cover some costs. (9)
How Effective Is It?
According to 2019 reports, the insulin pump is an efficient, accepted, and safe option used in recently diagnosed patients—especially children where multiple daily injections are difficult to regulate. Insulin therapy is a vital factor in stabilizing glucose and insulin levels. (10)
However, do have in mind that the insulin pen is cheaper and takes less training to use than a pump. But, the patient will need to monitor their glucose before injecting constantly.
If you need intensive insulin therapy or continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion, be sure to consult with your doctor. They can advise you on the best management tactic that can help control your condition.
Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) – How Can It Turn the Tide?
Countless Americans are using a CGM device. Data reports that the use of CGM in type 1 diabetes patients experienced a significant growth curve. It went from 6% in 2011 to 12% in just three years. By 2016, it went up by 24%, reaching a 38% growth by 2018. (11)
How Does It Work?
A continuous glucose monitor is here to track the blood sugar for better glycemic control. It is automatically capable of glucose monitoring during the day and night. These real-time readings record all the fluctuations in blood sugar over hours and days. This helps anyone with type 1 diabetes to make informed decisions.
They can use glucose monitoring to balance the medicine, food intake, and exercise. For a CGM to work, it uses a small sensor that people insert under the skin. It goes on the arm or belly. The sensor is a key aspect of diabetes care. That’s because it assesses the interstitial blood sugar, which is the glucose present in the fluid between the cells. (12)
The latest CGM can be linked to a tablet or smartphone for more convenient continuous glucose control. One of its unique features is that the CGM is constantly recording. If the CGM readings spot a problem, then the alarm will let you know.
How Effective Is It?
Every device has its limitations. CGM is no exception. A CGM unit may not be perfectly accurate. The longer you wear it, the better the results. So, don’t feel anxious if the accuracy is not on point in the first 24h. That’s because its glucose levels and accuracy vary based on the area of the body and usage. (13)
According to experts, the accuracy declines with time. Its durability will vary based on the device. Some patients wear the CGM unit for 3 weeks. Others can’t get more than 7 to 10 days of usage. Currently, the Dexcom G5 Mobile is an approved CGM model for making noteworthy decisions.
Recently, however, another Dexcom CGM gained momentum. The Dexcom G6 CGM is the latest addition to the market designed for continuous glucose control. Compared to previous CGM models, this CGM system is factory-calibrated. That means you don’t need any fingersticks. The transmitter, sensor, and display device are compatible with a smart unit. (14)
If you have any doubts about the diabetes devices you are using, consult with an expert. The blood glucose level tends to fluctuate regularly. So, it is a good idea to have a diabetes educator at hand. Their advice can help you keep the hypoglycemia in check and make sense of your CGM readings.
Tips for Selecting the Right Diabetes Technology
A diabetes patient can use a CGM (also known as flash glucose monitoring), insulin injections, pumps, AID systems (automated insulin delivery), and a blood glucose meter. There is also the artificial pancreas system. It gives better numbers and reduces the burden on patients. (15)
The FDA approved the bionic pancreas in 2019. A year later, shipping started across the United States. Since the product combines the work of an insulin pump with glucose monitoring, it can assist with self-care.
All of these options can aid with diabetes care. Choosing a product comes down to personal preference. Here are a couple of tips to consider when selecting the product that will suit your needs. (16)
- Choose a product that you can get used to. If you find the AID systems or flash glucose units too complicated, then use manual insulin injections. When you feel comfortable with the product you are using, diabetes management can put your mind at ease.
- Consider the accuracy when measuring blood glucose. Many factors can affect the accuracy of your glucose meter. Like variations in the proportion of red blood cells in your system. Even environmental conditions, such as temperature, can impact your readings. For a device to be reliable, it must use the latest technology capable of detecting these variations. (17)
- Think about your budget. Pick a device that you can afford. Most devices for regulating insulin come at a hefty price. This is something not many people can afford. But, there are ways you can work around it. For example, if you need a blood glucose meter that’s easy on the wallet, pick one that doesn’t have a color screen or a Bluetooth connection. Expensive units have more features.
- Check to see if you qualify for insurance. See if your insurance can cover some of the costs. Blood glucose monitoring devices are very expensive. So, you should use all the reimbursements you can get. Talk with your insurance provider. They can let you in on all the practical ways you can use to spend your money.
- Compare different models. It’s difficult to pinpoint one glucose or insulin device that works for everyone. To keep the insulin and glucose in check, try using different models. Each unit has its own features, design, and convenience. So, you can get the most of a unit if you find the one that resonates with you.
Over the years, researchers have created many devices that can help those with diabetes live a more comfortable life.
They put together notable technological advances that ushered in a new era in diabetes management.
Although they may not be perfectly accurate at all times, they still create a layer of security and convenience. People can use them at any moment to see their blood glucose readings in real-time.
However, the price for these units remains out of reach for many. That’s why it is a good idea to check for insurance coverage when possible.
If you have any doubts about the device you are using, consult with your healthcare provider. They can advise you on reading the blood glucose better and keeping your health in tip-top shape.