Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM)
How these devices work and whether a CGM system is right for your diabetes treatment plan.
As medicine advances so do the options for people living with diabetes. We have been fortunate to see a lot of innovations that improve our lives, from simple urine tests for glucose and ketones, to the development of accurate glucose measuring devices, to the invention of the subcutaneous insulin infusion pump.
One of the latest innovations in diabetic health is the Continuous Glucose Monitoring System or Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). This breakthrough is redefining diabetes care by allowing diabetics and their medical teams to receive real-time feedback on glucose levels at regular intervals each day without the need to conduct a manual test. That’s right, you get results without finger pricks or test strips.
However, ease and convenience is not the primary advantage of CGM devices. The real benefit is medical. These glucose monitors deliver accurate blood sugar levels in real time. This helps users and their physicians clearly understand insulin needs on a daily basis, as well the impacts diet and lifestyle are having on blood glucose levels at any given time.
CGM devices are the future because they make it far easier for people living with diabetes to see near normal blood glucose levels on a regular basis – and that’s a game changer in diabetic care.
How does a Continuous Glucose Monitor work?
A Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) is a small device that attaches to a specific part of the body, typically the arm or abdomen. The CGM features a small sensor that rests beneath the skin and wirelessly transmits continuous blood sugar measurements to a remote receiver unit. Some devices like the Dexcom G6 Transmitter even integrate with smart phones, turning them into the remote receiver unit.
It is all in the details - why CGM is a diabetes difference maker.
The key benefit of using a CGM is that it provides real-time blood glucose levels around the clock. These devices work 24/7 and allow users and diabetes care teams to obtain accurate blood glucose readings as often as every five minutes.
As someone with diabetes, just imagine how much easier it would be to stay on top of your blood sugar and insulin needs throughout the day if knowing your glucose levels was literally just a glance away. Studies have shown that CGM devices and the steady stream of accurate information they provide can help certain groups living with diabetes dramatically lower the risk of hypoglycemia and associated diabetic illnesses.
Another advantage to using a CGM is the alarm feature that alerts the user when blood glucose levels drop. This is a great bonus, particularly for those overnight hours. Should blood glucose levels become dangerously low while the user is asleep, the alarm will sound, waking the user and prompting appropriate action before nocturnal hypoglycemia can lead to more serious problems.
It’s important to note that the sensors of CGM devices, those small units that insert under the skin, must be replaced regularly. On some devices, sensors last about a week, while others can provide accurate measurements for up to three months before needing to be replaced. It all depends on which glucose monitor you choose, and there are quite a few options. Should you and your care team determine you’re a good candidate, your doctor will likely recommend a device offered by leading CGM brands like the Dexcom CGM and the Medtronic CGM.
Of course, as with any decision regarding diabetes care, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons and assess your individual treatment needs to know if Continuous Glucose Monitoring is right for you. Do this with your doctor and care team as they know your personal diabetes program better than anyone, and because all CGM devices require a physician’s prescription.
In the meantime, however, the rest of this post includes some important CGM considerations that should help answer some of your questions and concerns.
Am I a good candidate for CGM?
Studies show that people with both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes can benefit from CGM devices. However, some groups do benefit more than others. For example:
- CGM devices are particularly beneficial for people who take multiple insulin injections each day, usually three times or more.
- People with diabetes who experience frequent bouts of hypoglycemia are excellent candidates.
- Pregnant women with diabetes who must try to maintain an A1C target level of <6% can benefit from the real-time and regular daily monitoring that is only possible with CGM devices.
- Older individuals who suffer from poor vision and/or dexterity challenges will certainly benefit from the worry-free glucose monitoring of a CGM device.
- People with diabetes who have difficulty maintaining metabolic control, especially those being treated with a continuous insulin infusion, can benefit from the added frequency and immediacy of monitoring blood glucose levels using a CGM device.
Why wouldn’t I go with Continuous Glucose Monitoring?
- Kids between the ages of eight and 18 years old are not the best candidates for Controlled Glucose Monitoring. This has nothing to do with the device’s effectiveness, but rather a young person’s unwillingness to continually wear a sensor like the Dexcom G6 Sensor. For kids, stick with a regular glucose meter.
- For some people with diabetes, the amount of data and measurements captured by a CGM device can feel overwhelming. Adding anxiety to the equation is not good for anyone.
- Diabetics who have their blood glucose levels under relatively good control and do not require multiple insulin injections each day may find it just as convenient to measure blood sugar levels using a standard glucose meter and test strips.
- CGM devices are expensive and most devices are not currently covered by health insurance. The average cost of a CGM device amounts to anywhere from $5 to $10 a day. On a more positive note, there are dedicated diabetes suppliers, such Diabetic Warehouse, that offer CMG devices from leaders like Dexcom and Medtronic MiniMed at the lowest possible prices.
- Learning to use a CGM device and, most importantly, to properly insert the sensors, requires expert tutorials from doctors and/or nurses and it can take a bit of practice to get it right. There’s no question the benefits of using this technology can be life changing. But you must be willing to adapt, learn and change a little bit, too.
Continuous Glucose Monitoring promises to be the way of the future for countless individuals living with diabetes. Already, the introduction of CGM has transformed the lives of so many with more intensive diabetic situations, turning the monumental challenge of measuring and maintaining proper blood glucose levels into a matter of routine. It is also important to remember that CGM systems are still a relatively new addition to the family of diabetes care options. It is undoubtedly a life changer for many. However, it may not be the right solution for you today.
Talk with your diabetes physician and care team to decide if switching to a Continuous Glucose Monitor is the right decision for you. Ask questions. Share your concerns. Weigh the pros and cons. If you determine that CGM is your next move, you can explore devices and sensors from leading manufacturers at www.diabeticwarehouse.org.
Diabetic Warehouse is a trusted supplier of diabetes care products and accessories. For more information and to explore a complete range of products, including test strips, syringes and needles, glucose monitoring systems, and more, visit www.diabeticwarehouse.org.