A Digital Lifeline: How Tech Tools Are Transforming the Diabetes Experience

Diabetes management has advanced significantly in recent years, with technology playing an increasingly vital role. For those living with this chronic condition, the advent of innovative tools and devices has been nothing short of a digital lifeline, revolutionizing how they monitor and control their blood sugar levels. From insulin pumps that mimic the body’s natural insulin delivery to continuous glucose monitors that provide real-time data, these advancements are transforming how patients cope with diabetes.

In the last decade, there have been significant improvements in the development and use of new technologies for giving insulin, highlighting insulin pumps and the artificial pancreas. This is still being researched. On the other hand, continuous glucose monitors are currently available to adjust treatment. The use of technology has become popular mainly for type 1 diabetes, and in countries like the United States, on average, 60% of patients with this type of diabetes use an insulin pump, and 11% use a continuous glucose monitor.

Insulin Pump Therapy

An insulin pump is an electronic device designed to deliver insulin continuously. A container with rapid insulin is placed inside the pump, which is connected to a small tube that transfers it to under the skin. 

The pump delivers insulin in small amounts and larger doses. The small amount continuously mimics how the pancreas releases insulin. The larger doses are given before meals to correct high blood sugar.

Treatment with an insulin pump eliminates frequent injections but requires the patient to instruct the pump for larger doses by entering blood sugar and carbohydrate intake.

Advantages of Insulin Pumps

Advantages include better blood sugar control, reduced severe low blood sugar, increased ability to give larger doses and different types of doses, use of temporary adjustments for exercise/situations, and potentially improved quality of life.

Disadvantages and Risks

Adverse effects include high blood sugar, risk of ketones/ketoacidosis, pump failure, skin infection, weight gain from excessive food intake, costs, and logistical considerations.

Continuous Glucose Monitoring

Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) is an advanced method for measuring sugar levels under the skin. The CGM has a sensor, transmitter, and receiver. The sensor determines sugar every 5 minutes, delivering 288 measurements in one day. There is a delay between blood and under-skin sugar levels.

Types of CGM

There are three types of CGM: professional or “blinded,” which the patient cannot see; real-time personal (CGM-RT), where the patient sees readings continuously; and real-time, but with blood sugar levels displayed on demand instead of continuously.

Benefits of Real-Time CGM

The benefit of CGM-RT on blood sugar control depends on the percentage of effective days using the device and the user’s age. It allows the patient to make precise adjustments to insulin doses and obtain information about increasing or decreasing blood sugar trends. CGM has alarms to alert for high/low levels and significant changes.

Drawbacks of CGM

The disadvantages of using CGM-RT are related to cost, sensor failures such as signal loss, excessive alerts, information overload, the need for calibration, and the delay between blood and under-skin fluid levels. These can make continuous use tiring for patients.

Reporting Software

Both insulin pumps and CGMs have specialized software that downloads the information from the device to a computer, allowing doctors to review the patient’s data. This provides detailed blood sugar trends, adherence data, insulin/carb information, and more, representing an invaluable tool for doctors and patients.

Conclusion

New technologies represent an important treatment option for patients with diabetes, especially for those who, despite optimizing their therapy with multiple injections, do not achieve optimal control or suffer from difficult-to-manage low blood sugars. While understanding Metformin details (or other diabetes medication) is important, technology offers great help in treating young patients and pregnant women. Considering its high cost, this group of patients must be treated in specialized centers by experienced doctors with expertise in this type of technology.

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