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Give Your Fingers a Rest with Continuous Glucose Monitoring

By Angie Frederic, RDN, CDE and Donna Keen, RN, CDE

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How often do you test your blood sugar? If you’re like most adults with diabetes, it’s probably not as often as you should. Luckily, there may be a light at the end of this testing tunnel! 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently approved continuous glucose monitoring devices for adults. The great thing about these systems is they don’t require a finger stick to calibrate. 

Continuous glucose monitoring systems use a small sensor that is inserted just below the skin. The sensor measures your interstitial glucose level, which is the glucose found in the fluid between the cells just under the skin.  

The sensor measures glucose every few minutes. A wireless transmitter sends the information to a monitor, which can be part of an insulin pump or a separate device you carry in your pocket or purse. Some of the continuous monitors can send the information directly to your smart phone. The sensors can be worn from seven to 14 days, depending on the model.

Why is this important? Your blood glucose is always changing. When you test your blood glucose with a finger stick, you are taking a snapshot of what your glucose is at that moment. Seeing not only the number, but also how your glucose is changing, can help you make more informed treatment decisions.

When might this be extra helpful? Anytime you would normally check your blood glucose: Before meals, 2 hours after a meal, bedtime or even in the middle of the night. Another important time is when you are ill. No one feels particularly excited about checking their glucose more often when they are sick, but this is a time when you may need to check even more often.

Are there times when I may need to test my blood sugar by finger stick? Absolutely! While these monitors are quite amazing, they should never replace a finger stick if you suspect your blood sugar is low or if you think the monitoring system does not match how you feel.

Several models are available, and they vary a lot in their functionality. Because of the variability in function, cost and insurance coverage vary widely between monitors. You can find more information about the monitors at the American Diabetes Association, or ask your local diabetes educator.

Angie Frederic, a dietitian and certified diabetes educator, leads the Diabetes Education team at Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital. Donna Keen is a nurse and diabetes educator with the Lebanon team.

Check in with your local Diabetes Education team to see if a continuous glucose monitor might be right for you.