Continuous Glucose Monitoring: New Technology to Combat Hypoglycemia & Improve Outcomes

As advances in technology have continued to evolve, more and more useful tools and machines have allowed geriatric patients to effectively monitor their health. One technology that has continued to improve over the years has been that of Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM). Though CGM is not as accurate as traditional methods of measuring blood sugar, it is continuing to make diabetics’ lives easier and safer.

 

While a traditional blood glucose meter only provides a brief “snapshot” of your glucose level, Continuous Glucose Monitoring devices allow patients to regularly see where their glucose levels are headed, and whether they are increasing or decreasing after certain activities throughout the day.  With 288 glucose readings per day (a reading every 5 minutes), CGMs are also able to send early notifications of upcoming high and low points so that you can take action early. This is possible through advanced, wireless technology. By inserting a small sensor underneath the patient’s skin, along with transmitting information through radio waves to a handheld device, a patient is able to see what their glucose level is as well as predict where it will go based on past trends. With these advanced features, diabetic geriatric patients will have the ability to take action early enough to prevent issues from getting worse later in the day.

 

With Continuous Glucose Monitoring, guesswork is minimized. One large risk that comes with diabetes guesswork is Hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia occurs when there is too much insulin in the body. When blood-sugar levels drop it can lead to symptoms such as dizziness, sweating, and headaches. It can also cause falls, seizures and loss of consciousness in diabetics. Hypoglycemia is usually more common in people with Type-2 diabetes. Studies have shown that patients over the age of 60 with Type-2 diabetes, who have an average of 40 years with the illness, spend approximately 99 minutes a day in a hypoglycemic state, including 60 minutes with a glucose level of under 60 mg/dL (Hypoglycemia is defined as a level below 70 mg/dL). With the new CGM devices, diabetic patients are able to see at what points in the day they should take action to prevent the life threatening hypoglycemia from occurring. This is especially helpful for geriatric patients that live alone and that experience hypoglycemia day and night. As these patients age, they begin to lose the ability to “feel” if they are hypoglycemic.  Therefore, CGM devices can become a life-saving option.

 

Even though continuous glucose monitoring does not completely eliminate the need for blood glucose meter readings, the CGM’s do provide very valuable information that can lead to quicker and more accurate treatment decisions, as well as improved glucose control. Although these CGM devices are making diabetic patients’ lives easier and safer, it is very important to check on your insurance coverage before purchasing. Because this type of monitoring is such a new technology, currently Medicare and Medicaid are not covering them. These monitors can cost close to $1,000, with ongoing costs of about $400 a year; so these devices do come with a cost. With the expensive costs and the need for calibrating, these CGM devices may not be for everyone, but they can help get a better handle on an individual’s diabetes and hypoglycemic episodes.