High-Tech Ways to Manage Diabetes
Over the last few decades, technology has given rise to many devices designed to help people manage their diabetes—electronic blood glucose monitors, insulin pumps, insulin pens and so on. Medications are constantly evolving, too. For example, in the summer of 2014, the Food and Drug Administration approved inhaled insulin for people with Type 1 diabetes who need to take insulin at mealtime.
And the developments keep coming. If you have diabetes, look what technology might be able to do for you:
Continuous glucose monitors
Instead of pricking your finger to measure your blood sugar levels every few hours, you could get blood glucose readings every five minutes from a small sensor inserted just beneath the top layer of your skin. With a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), the results are transmitted to a small monitor you can put in your pocket or attach to your belt. Some models will even alert you if your levels get too high. Some people with Type 1 diabetes use CGMs in tandem with smart insulin pumps to stay on top of their levels. You won’t be entirely free of finger-sticks, however. Experts generally suggest that you still test your blood the old-fashioned way several times a day.
Blood glucose meters
Blood glucose meters, which measure blood sugar levels by analyzing a small drop of blood, have come a long way. They’re smaller, more portable and more accurate than ever before. Now you can even use a wireless blood glucometer that records and synchs information to your smartphone, so you can easily track the data yourself or even email the information to your healthcare provider.
Mobile medical apps for continuous glucose monitoring
There’s an app for just about everything now. Now you can use an app to securely transmit data from your continuous glucose monitor through your smartphone to your designated followers—think Instagram but with blood glucose readings instead of photos of outfits or fancy foods. Your followers can see your data in real time and download it.
No more needles and painful finger-sticks for you with this handheld gadget, which is not yet available for sale. The breathalyzer was designed to determine blood glucose levels by detecting the presence of a ketone known as acetone that builds up in your body when you don’t have enough available insulin.
People with diabetes have long worn special support socks to improve circulation in their feet and lower legs and ward off blisters and ulcers. Usually, they’re seamless, padded and made of a warm, breathable material that won’t irritate your feet. Now researchers are hoping to up the ante—and the protection factor—by developing “smart socks” that will detect changes in temperature and pressure, which could lead to better ulcer prevention. Or if you prefer a slightly lower tech but still very helpful sock, you might be interested in a line of socks made with copper-infused fibers that work to prevent ulcers by killing off viruses, fungi, and bacteria.
Your eyes naturally generate tears to keep your eye moist. Imagine a contact lens with an embedded sensor that could detect your glucose levels from those tears and send a signal to a smartphone to give you a reading. Or maybe you’d prefer a contact lens with a tiny LED light that would change color if its sensor detected higher-than-normal glucose levels. Someday soon, you might not have to imagine them—they might be available in the same aisle with your saline solution.
Wearable artificial pancreas
Researchers have been working to develop a portable artificial pancreas for patients with Type 1 diabetes who have insulin pumps. The pancreas directs a person’s insulin pump to deliver the correct amount of insulin, based on the readings from the person’s continuous glucose monitor. This could make managing their insulin delivery much easier and more efficient.