The Facts About Using Continuous Glucose Monitors to Manage Diabetes

By Alison Massey

The Facts About Using Continuous Glucose Monitors to Manage Diabetes

Many individuals with diabetes rely on the information from fingerstick blood glucose monitoring to make decisions on everything from eating to physical activity and even medication needs.

The frequency of recommended monitoring is often individualized and depends on a person’s medication regimen. While fingerstick monitoring is valuable for providing information about blood glucose at that moment in time, it doesn’t provide much information on what happened previously or what might happen next. In other words, fingerstick blood glucose monitoring doesn’t provide much information about blood glucose trends or patterns.

What is a continuous glucose monitor?

In the last year of the 20th century, advancements in medical science led to to the development of continuous glucose monitors (CGMs). Unlike point-of-care fingersticks, CGMs provide in-depth information regarding blood glucose patterns and trends. CGMs measure the interstitial fluid, which correlates with plasma blood glucose.

There are typically three different components to the CGM device: the sensor, the transmitter, and the receiver or display. The sensor is a thin, flexible metallic filament that is placed below a layer of fat in the skin using an insertion device. The transmitter sends the information to a display device or reader that allows the person with diabetes to view their blood glucose patterns.

Currently, there are two different types of CGMs tools available: real-time CGMs and an intermittently scanning CGM.

Real-time CGMs

  • Continuously report on blood glucose trends
  • Often include alarms for alerting individuals to hypoglycemic (blood glucose levels that are trending too low) and hyperglycemic events
  • May have the ability to be integrated with the use of an insulin pump
  • Approved for use with children, adolescents and adults

Intermittently Scanning CGMs

  • Does not report data continuously, instead when the receiver is scanned over the sensor it provides real-time data regarding blood glucose values as well as trend arrows
  • Does not include alarms for alerting the individual of hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic trends
  • Direct costs are typically lower than those of real-time CGMs
  • Only approved for use with adults

Research has demonstrated that CGM use can be beneficial in improving diabetes self-management by lowering A1c and reducing hypoglycemic events. Individuals that previously needed to monitor blood glucose levels frequently via finger stick might also have an improvement in their quality of life with the decrease in fingerstick monitoring.

Individuals tend to be more successful using CGM technology when they receive education prior to initiating use of the tool. The frequency of CGM use is correlated with improvements in diabetes care. Certified diabetes educators (CDEs) can help with providing important information about CGMs.

CDEs can assist individuals in:

  • Overcoming device-specific challenges
  • Learning how to use blood glucose trend information to improve self-care
  • Adjusting therapy based on trends and patterns

The effectiveness of technology tools, including CGMs, are enhanced with the personal touch of a CDE. Harnessing the power of technology to scale the human touch and improve diabetes care is one goal of Cecelia Health. Talk to your healthcare provider and/or CDE to find out more about CGM technology as a tool to help improve diabetes care.

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Orignially published on February 14, 2019, updated on March 20, 2019

Topic: Medication

Alison Massey

About Alison Massey

Alison Massey MS, RD, LDN, CDE is a certified diabetes educator, registered dietitian and freelance writer in Maryland. Follow her on Twitter at @RD4Food and on Instagram at @rdfoodie.

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