If you’re diagnosed with diabetes or know someone with it, it’s essential to understand the importance of tracking blood sugar levels. This practice can tell you and your doctor how much medicine your body needs. Additionally, the results may give you and your healthcare team an idea of how to change your food intake, physical activities, and medicines.
The finger-stick blood test is the usual method to check sugar levels. But, a Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) tool might also come in handy. To help you learn more about this device, here are a few things you need to know:
What is a CGM?: Its definition
A Continuous Glucose Monitor or CGM is an additional tool for managing your type 1 or 2 diabetes. It measures the sugar levels in the fluid surrounding your cells, just under the skin; it does not sit in a blood vessel. You can check your body’s sugar anytime with it because it functions 24 hours a day, whether you’re sleeping, exercising, or showering. You can even see your blood sugar trends and make necessary changes to reach your target range.
What is a CGM?: Who it’s best for
Using a continuous monitoring device might make managing your diabetes more comfortable and convenient. To know if a CGM is best for you, consider the following factors:
Patients with type 1 or 2 diabetes can use a CGM. This device is most helpful to people who take multiple daily shots of insulin since they may need to check their blood sugar levels more often to see whether their treatment is working.
A CGM might decrease your discomfort with finger-stick blood checks. That’s because this can reduce the times you have to prick your finger. This device records your blood sugar every 3-5 minutes and tracks its direction. If your blood sugar is steady or going up or down, you can see this just by looking at the trending arrows.
CGM does not totally replace finger-sticks, though. You will still need to have a blood sugar meter as a backup and to check anytime you are feeling different than what the CGM is telling you. For example, if it says you are low but you feel fine, you should still do a finger-stick to double-check.
Blood sugar level
Your healthcare provider may recommend a CGM when your sugar level is frequently high or low. A CGM can detect whether your blood sugar level is too low or too high and notify you of any urgent medical needs.
CGMs can be very helpful in bringing blood sugars into target range and possibly lowering the long-term complications of diabetes. Each type of CGM is approved for use in certain age categories, starting as young as 2 or 4.
For children, your healthcare provider may recommend a CGM model that allows for quick, easy, and less painful insertions, which may be more appealing to your child. Other CGM models can have many sensor placement options, so can be worn more discreetly. Speak with your healthcare provider to figure out which may be the best device for your child. This can provide the peace of mind necessary when children cannot tell you how they are feeling or if they feel like their blood sugar is changing. The share feature of the CGM apps allows you to share the numbers with up to five people. This can be very helpful when the user is not physically close to you, such as when the child is in school.
Although CGMs are helpful for people of all ages, they’re especially beneficial for teens and young adults. They make self-care easier since they can reduce the need for frequent finger-pricks and frequent replacement of sensors. CGMs may also make living with diabetes easier socially for teens – instead of testing their blood sugar levels in front of their friends, teens can discreetly check their apps.
A CGM can also prevent diabetes from interfering with activities and causing social discomfort. With the alerts system on, teens can quickly react in case their blood sugar level drops or rises.
What is a CGM?: How it works
Before purchasing a CGM, it’s essential to understand its parts and functions. That way, you’ll have an easier time using it. To help you learn more about this device, here are CGMs general parts and how they work:
A sensor is a thin filament or wire that goes directly under the skin on the back of your arm, stomach, or even your buttock. The sensor comes already loaded in an inserter, and all you have to do is push a button. There will be tape to help it stick to your skin, although some people often will add extra adhesives to help keep the sensor on for the full 10-14 days.
The sensor measures your sugar levels every one to five minutes, recording a value every five to fifteen minutes for the entire day.
This part of the CGM sits in the sensor. It sends the data it collects from the sensor to the receiver through radio waves or Bluetooth. Depending on the device, you may have a reusable transmitter that lasts for three months or have the transmitter built into the sensor itself so you don’t have a separate transmitter.
This part can come in the form of an app, an insulin pump, or a handheld device called a reader. Many manufacturers produce Bluetooth-enabled applications you can download on your smartphone or tablet. Those who don’t use a smartphone may also consider a reader, which functions similarly, and is required by Medicare.
Meanwhile, some transmitters can send your blood sugar level data directly to an insulin pump. This tool will automatically adjust the insulin it delivers based on the information it receives.
What is a CGM?: Special features
Most CGMs come with additional functions that can be useful to your day-to-day life. The following are some examples:
Medical emergencies such as high or low blood sugars can happen anytime — even when you’re asleep. So most CGMs have preset alerts for high or low blood sugar levels. Predictive monitoring tools can also alert you before your blood sugar levels reach the preset measurements. You can also adjust the preset levels or add more of your own.
Since you can connect your phone or other smart devices to a CGM, some apps allow you to note down your exercise routines, medicines, and meals with your results. That way, you can easily track the factors that affect your blood sugar levels.
CGM-connected apps let you instantly download your blood sugar level trends. All you have to do is export the information you need to your device.
Almost all CGMs allow you to dose your medicine from the blood sugar value you get from the CGM, and research shows that their data is as accurate as a blood sugar monitoring meter. However, any time you think the reading is not correct, you should do a finger-stick to double-check.
What is a CGM?: Continuous vs. intermittent monitoring
There are two different ways CGMs can give you your blood sugar results. One is where you see all your data all the time in a waveform, either on your app or your reader. This is referred to as continuous or real-time. Another way is to take your smartphone or reader and wave it over the sensor. This will give you a single value and a trend arrow to show you where that value is headed. This is called intermittent or flash monitoring, but scanning at least every eight to twelve hours will capture all your data in the app as waveforms and give your healthcare provider continuous information. Additionally, CGMs allow you to see your numbers over the past one, three, six, or 12 hours.
What is a CGM?: Advantages and disadvantages
A CGM can offer many benefits. It may improve your quality of life by helping you manage your diabetes and prevent emergencies. That’s because you can frequently and conveniently check if your blood sugar is rising or dropping. If you find the finger-stick method too painful, inconvenient, or hard to do in public, such as while at work, a CGM can provide additional benefits.
However, like any other technological device, a CGM also has limitations. You need to have the sensor physically on your body 24 hours a day for the full sensor wear time. CGMs also cost more than the traditional finger-stick method. Due to the cost, some people choose to wear CGM only at certain times, such as during times of stress, illness, or lifestyle changes. Some parents are even willing to pay out-of-pocket when it is not covered by insurance for the peace of mind it can provide in their children’s care.
Consult a professional about CGMs
Since the use of a CGM is by prescription only, it’s best to talk with your doctor before purchasing one. At Better Health, our team can help you find and use the best CGM for you. We handle all the paperwork — from working with your insurance to getting a prescription from your doctor — for an easier, faster, and better way for you to get your medical supplies and care. Call Better Health at 415-475-8444 today.