A diabetic glucose monitor that tests without pain is here now but it is not cheap. Here is a look into the near future of diabetic blood testing. As new monitors become available, you will have options to test your blood sugar without blood.
Diabetic glucose monitor research moves fast, fueled by competition for the billions of dollars spent on diabetes supplies.
Soon we will be able to afford to test our blood sugar without using test strips and drops of blood.
Every diabetes doctor knows that testing more often will improve the health of a diabetic. The problem with testing has always been the pain, inconvenience and cost.
Convincing type 1 kids and older folks on tight budgets to do more frequent blood tests is not easy.
From the first home testing glucose monitor to the ones we use today, drawing a drop of blood has been the only foolproof way to know your blood sugar.
A type 2 diabetic who is not on insulin may test once a day while a type 2 on insulin ought to test four times every day.
Some brittle type 1 diabetics need to test as often as every 15 minutes to watch for hypoglycemia. Their risk of a diabetic coma is that high.
Many parents of type 1 children set their alarms to wake up several times a night and check on them. These kids would not wake up from a dangerously low blood sugar on their own.
There has to be a better way to keep tabs on blood sugar for them. And the rest of us want something less painful that we can afford to use every day.
One answer is a continuous diabetic glucose monitor that can be worn day and night. There are some on the market right now.
They use a special sensor needle inserted under the skin that is connected with or without wires to a receiver.
Some receivers are as small as a cell phone, and some sit on a bedside table at night. The sensor under the skin has to be recalibrated every day and replaced every few days because scar tissue forms around it and makes it useless.
But the continuous diabetic glucose monitor works, and teamed with an alarm it gives parents of type 1 diabetic children a chance to sleep.
Another option made by Sleep Sentry will wake you from sleep if it detects two of the symptoms of hypoglycemia. It does not test blood sugar but it sounds an alarm if your temperature drops or you begin to sweat, two of the signs of hypoglycemia.
This would be a help for diabetics who have had too many hypoglycemic events and become unaware of low blood sugar. Older diabetics find strapping on this sensor gives them some peace of mind, especially if they live alone.
But diabetics with autonomic neuropathy might not get any benefit since they may not sweat with low blood sugar. They need a diabetic glucose monitor that actually reads their blood sugar levels.
A true wireless implantable diabetic glucose monitor has been made by GlySens. It is about the size of an Oreo cookie. Their plan is to implant it in the torso of a diabetic and get continuous readings on something like a cell phone.
So far the implant has lasted about 500 days without having to be replaced, but as of 2010 it had only been tried on pigs. Human trials were set to begin that year, so it may be several more years before we see them on the market.
Lightouch Medical is making a monitor that uses light sensors on your fingertip to measure glucose. OrSense is doing the same, but their monitor is planned for use only in hospitals right now.
Sensys Medical has a monitor that uses near infrared. You would lay your arm on the device to let it sense your blood sugar. Right now the monitor is having accuracy problems because of skin variations and changes. But they plan to make a home glucose monitor some day.
The GlucoTrack is an exciting product from a company in Israel that uses an ear clip to test blood sugar. It uses three different methods to measure blood glucose and can be used by up to three people if they each have a different ear clip.
The product is expensive, but the ear clip only needs to be replaced every six months, and there is no more need for test strips, lancets or control solution. You can feel free to test as often as you like every day without raising the cost.
Another diabetic glucose monitor designed only for type 2 diabetes does not check blood sugar.
Instead it detects the presence of diabetic AGEs, because levels are very high in diabetics. The makers hope this can be used to diagnose type 2 diabetes.
At MIT, a U.S. college, researchers are using an implanted tattoo with what they call nano-ink.
When the ink is exposed to glucose it flouresces (sends out light). A sensor that measures changes in the light is worn like a watch and gives blood sugar readouts.
So far they have found the tattoo lasts about six months before it stops working.
In other places scientists are working on tiny implantable detectors the size of rice that use the flourescing idea, but nothing is even nearly ready for FDA approval.
The University of Western Ontario is making contact lenses that change color as they detect the rise and fall of blood sugar. These use nanotechnology, using particles the size of molecules imbedded in a contact lens.
The lenses will not give you a blood sugar reading, but will warn you of low and high blood sugar during the day.
There is a race all over the world to find better ways to test blood sugar in diabetics, and the reason is not hard to find. Billions of dollars are spent every year on test strips, monitors and other devices, and the market is growing because type 2 diabetes is a world wide epidemic.
Type 1 diabetes is getting closer to a cure, but there is still a desperate need for a truly good continuous diabetic glucose monitor. It has to be one that children and teens can use.
With so much competition and so much money being invested, we will soon see the end of finger sticking, test strips and hand held glucose monitors. We will keep watching and update this page as science fiction becomes reality.
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