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The Latest News in Wearable Technology for Optimizing Diabetes Care

We are a data-hungry, wearable technology-enthusiastic culture. We like to get our hands on the latest and greatest. Unfortunately, 10.5%, or 34.2 million, of us in the U.S., also have diabetes. 

The good news is there are some pretty neat wearable technology options and recent advances to help manage your diabetes better! Read on to find out more.

The Importance of Monitoring Glucose (Blood Sugar)

Patients with diabetes need to monitor their blood glucose (or blood sugar) regularly. If blood glucose is too high or too low, it can cause short-term symptoms such as headache and dizziness, and long-term complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, or other organ damage. 

Monitoring blood glucose can also tell patients and their doctors how well medications are working and track the progression of the disease. Monitoring blood glucose is central to managing diabetes!

How Is Blood Glucose Monitored?

For many years, patients with diabetes had few options for how to measure their blood sugar. Mainly, they prick their finger using something called a lancet (little needle) and put a drop of blood on a test strip, which is then read by a glucometer. The blood sugar reading is a snapshot in time. Therefore, patients must test their blood sugar once or even several times per day. 

As you might imagine, this can be painful and a burden for patients. Yet, since the 1980s, self-monitored blood glucose (SMBG) has been the standard of care for diabetes. Technology has improved substantially since the first glucometer was approved in the 1970s. Increased accuracy, better lancets, and smaller blood samples required are just a few of the advances. What’s the latest and greatest, you ask? 

A Snapshot in Time to Real-Time Data

Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) is a way to track blood glucose automatically around the clock. A small sensor is inserted under the skin by the patient, usually in the belly or arm, and can monitor glucose levels throughout the day. 

They can be worn for multiple days, and patients do not need to prick their fingers daily! No longer just a snapshot in time, CGM provides a more accurate, real-time picture of glucose levels so both patients and doctors are more informed and can make better decisions for how to manage diabetes – through diet, exercise, and medications.

The first CGM technology came out in 1999, and the data was downloadable by a healthcare provider. CGM has come a long way in 20 years, becoming more patient-centric and accessible. Patients can check their glucose level anytime and even program alarms to alert them when their level is too high or too low! 

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The Latest in Diabetes Technology – Integrated Continuous Glucose Monitoring (iCGM)  

The latest advancement came in 2018 with the first FDA-approved iCGM product, Dexcom G6, which is approved for ages two years and older and worn for ten days. Integrated CGM (iCGM) is CGM intended to be digitally connected (integrated) with other devices such as insulin dosing systems, insulin pumps, and glucometers. iCGM products must go through a rigorous process to obtain FDA approval to ensure safety from both a clinical and technology perspective. 

A New Sheriff in Town

Alas! Another iCGM product just received FDA approval in mid-June 2020, the Freestyle Libre 2. Freestyle Libre products have been around for a few years, but its newest upgrade just received the “integrated” (iCGM) designation, meaning it will be able to be used with other wearable diabetes care technologies. The new Libre 2 is approved for patients four years and older and may be worn for 14 days. Although it is not yet available for purchase, it will be soon, so stay tuned!

Bottom Line

More options, better technology, and competition in the market improve access for patients. This is great news for the diabetes world – 10.5% of our country – including many of our friends and family. Having a chronic disease like diabetes can be challenging, but perhaps with this additional data-forward, wearable technologies, living with diabetes will seem more manageable and increase satisfaction.

Reference List

  1. National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2020. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/diabetes-stat-report.html. Updated February 11, 2020. Accessed July 23, 2020.
  2. Hirsch IB. History of Glucose Monitoring. American Diabetes Association. https://professional.diabetes.org/sites/professional.diabetes.org/files/media/db201811.pdf. Published 2018. Accessed July 23, 2020.
  3. Continuous Glucose Monitoring. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/managing-diabetes/continuous-glucose-monitoring. Published June 2017. Accessed July 23, 2020.
  4. FDA authorizes first fully interoperable continuous glucose monitoring system, streamlines review pathway for similar devices. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-authorizes-first-fully-interoperable-continuous-glucose-monitoring-system-streamlines-review. Published March 27, 2018. Accessed July 23, 2020.
  5. Product Classification: integrated continuous glucose monitoring system, factory calibrated. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfpcd/classification.cfm?id=682. Updated July 20, 2020. Accessed July 23, 2020.
  6. Abbott's FreeStyle® Libre 2 iCGM Cleared in U.S. for Adults and Children with Diabetes, Achieving Highest Level of Accuracy and Performance Standards. Abbott. https://abbott.mediaroom.com/2020-06-15-Abbotts-FreeStyle-R-Libre-2-iCGM-Cleared-in-U-S-for-Adults-and-Children-with-Diabetes-Achieving-Highest-Level-of-Accuracy-and-Performance-Standards. Published June 15, 2020. Accessed July 23, 2020.
  7. The FreeStyle Libre 2 system. Abbott Laboratories. https://www.freestylelibre.us/system-overview/freestyle-libre-2.html. Updated June 2020. Accessed July 23, 2020.  
Published August 5th, 2020 by Dr. Audrey Kostrzewa, PharmD, MPH, BCPS
Fact Checked by Chris Riley

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