A small, wearable device to track glucose levels may eliminate the need for the finger-stick test.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution has come to diabetic care with the introduction of a small, wearable device that tracks one’s blood glucose level 24 hours a day and provides real-time alerts as to whether it is too high or too low.

Unlike the finger-stick test, which measures a static point in time and gives no indication if glucose levels are rising or falling, the device allows patients to track trends over time, helping to make better informed decisions as part of any insulin regime.

“It literally eliminates the need for finger-stick tests, which only give one-figure readings and require calibration every 12 hours,” said US manufacturers of the Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) system, Dexcom G6, this week.

The manufacturers said the device also gave individuals greater control over their health and wearing a sensor to check blood glucose levels with a smartphone is convenient.

“While CGM is of greatest relevance to those with Type 1 diabetes, it is also used by some with Type 2 diabetes, in particular those with complications or advanced conditions.

“As a behavioural tool, it will help us better understand diabetes. Wearing it for a week can provide a better understanding of how external factors affect your blood glucose levels, including exercise, stress and various foods.”

Using the linked app, users can share their glucose information with up to five people, they said. “Whether you are a parent of a child with diabetes or an independent adult, the G6 lets you seamlessly keep track of glucose levels and enables the user’s care team to remotely monitor their loved ones for extra peace of mind.”

The company release quoted Ngoy Sina Ngandu, a professional living with Type 1 diabetes, saying: “With diabetes, you become your own doctor first. You learn about your condition and understand how your body responds to medication so you can manage the condition properly. It is costly physically and emotionally but once you learn to manage your blood sugar, there is nothing stopping you from living a normal life.”

Pietermaritzburg resident Phil Whitehorn, who lives with diabetes, said the device would “make life simpler”. “A lot of diabetics don’t monitor themselves as much as they should,” he said.

Also in the provincial capital, a professional who has a young family member with diabetes said the family had heard of the new continuous glucose monitoring system, but was concerned about the cost.

A Gauteng social worker, working with elderly frail care patients, said such monitoring seemed to be a more accurate monitoring system.

“It certainly seems safer. People slip into comas in the middle of the night while sleeping when levels drop. Scary stuff. If that danger is eliminated it is the way forward. However, I wonder about cost. We work with mainly older individuals, some who, because of inflation, don’t have broad means,” she said.

The device is expected to cost R3300 a month and the transmitter R4500.

“Affordability for this type of technology is always extremely individualised,” said a spokesperson.

“We are continuing in our efforts to make this technology more accessible/affordable to more people who need this technology in South Africa.”

According to the International Diabetes Federation, 366 million people have diabetes globally. The federation predicts this will rise to 552million by 2030 and the biggest increase is expected in Africa.