CGM (continuous glucose monitoring) is a FDA-approved system that measures blood sugar levels in “real time throughout the day and night.” By wearing a CGM you will have a better picture of what your blood sugars are doing from moment to moment. After initial calibration, the CGM measures blood glucose every 1-10 minutes. This makes the CGM a “powerful and life changing piece of technology for those with type 1 or 2 diabetes. It supplies the crucial information needed by you and your physician to make informed decisions about how your medications, exercise regimen and eating habits are affecting your diabetes management. Although it does not completely replace standard glucose meters, it offers additional information by tracking trends.
What is in the Continuous Glucose Monitoring Research?
Recent research suggests that Continuous Glucose Monitoring can help maintain improved blood sugar control and minimize some of the long-term complications of diabetes. According to a multi-center clinical trial done by The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), “CGM devices make it possible for people to better manage their diabetes while reducing the frequency of low blood sugar.” Studies have shown that using a CGM “may help reduce your A1C levels up to 1% and can constantly identify trends in your blood sugars.
How Does a CGM Device Work?
A tiny, flexible sensor is easily and painlessly placed under the skin into the interstitial fluid where glucose is found between the cells. It is then secured with adhesive. Every 10 seconds the sensor measures the tissue level of glucose and sends the information to a receiver where you can view the readings. An average blood sugar is recorded every 1-10 minutes. The sensor can be worn on the abdomen or arm and stays in place for 3-7 days. When sensors are left in the skin for too long, most patients develop skin irritation and scar tissue. A wireless transmitter, which is attached to the sensor, sends information to a receiver which acts as a central system that displays the trends of your glucose levels. The receiver can wirelessly send this information to an insulin pump or Smartphone app when synced together. This gives you much more information than regular finger sticks because it tracks trends information onto a graph. Patients can set an alarm which alerts them when blood sugars are either too high or too low. Some CGM models send information straight to a second phone (parent, caretaker, spouse or health care professional) to provide immediate information about blood sugar trends.
Who Should be Using a CGM?
Initially, continuous Glucose Monitoring was only recommended for patients with type 1 diabetes. More recently CGM has been recommended for those who take “intensive insulin therapy” or multiple shots daily; either type 1 or type 2 patients with diabetes and can’t gain control somewhere between 80-160 mg/dl. Those who have “hypoglycemic unawareness” (no symptoms of hypoglycemia including weakness, shakiness, headaches, blurry vision, hunger) are also good candidates for continuous glucose monitoring. It is excellent in identifying anyone with diabetes that is experiencing overnight lows and post meal highs.
Will I Still Need to do Finger Sticks with a Regular Meter?
Yes, Continuous Glucose Monitoring does not eliminate regular finger sticks. They are needed for calibration purposes and to help your physician decide about possible changes to insulin dosages or medications. Usually you will still have to test 2-4 times a day with a blood glucose monitor.
Which Insurance Covers a CGM?
Many insurance providers including Medicare may cover and offer reimbursement so find out from your insurance provider what your benefits are.
Talk to your health care team to see if you can get better control of your blood glucose levels using a CGM device. Consider using a CGM to develop an improved diabetes self-management plan for optimal well-being.
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She is a member of the American Diabetes Association as well as the South Florida Association of Diabetes Educators. She worked with the education department of NBMC to help educate the hospital's in-patient nurses about diabetes. She practices a healthy lifestyle and has worked as a personal fitness trainer in the past.
She was one of the initiators of the North Broward Diabetes Center (NBMC) which started in 1990 and was one of the first American Diabetes Association (ADA) certified programs in Broward County, Florida for nearly two decades. Robbie has educated patients to care for themselves and has counseled them on healthy eating, heart disease, high lipids, use of glucometers, insulin and many other aspects of diabetes care. The NBMC Diabetes Center received the Valor Award from the American Diabetes Center for excellent care to their patients. Robbie has volunteered over the years as leader of many diabetes support groups.