7 Big Ideas and Innovations That Have Advanced Diabetes Treatment
Technology and scientific breakthroughs continue to make it easier than ever to live with diabetes. In this post, we examine some of the most important diabetes innovations in recent years.
There are currently more than 34 million Americans living with diabetes, the vast majority of whom (upwards of 95%) having been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. While there is yet to be a cure for either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, advancements in care and treatment continue to be introduced year after year.
Thanks to the efforts of countless physicians, researchers and scientists dedicated to uncovering new and better ways to manage the disease, innovations like these listed below are now widely used diabetes treatment options.
Insulin Pumps are small digital devices that release insulin almost the way your body would naturally. They are programmed to provide a steady flow of insulin throughout the day (basal insulin) and an extra dose at mealtime (bolus insulin). Insulin pumps eliminate the need for injections as they are worn on the body and deliver insulin through an infusion set and a small tapered tube called a cannula that inserts just below the skin, usually on the abdomen. Additionally, new advancements like the OmniPod system provide the continuous insulin management of a pump without the need for tubes or external devices.
Insulin pumps have proven to be a tremendous advantage in controlling blood sugar and lowering A1C levels, particularly for those with Type 1 diabetes who do not produce insulin on their own and require a number of daily injections.
Insulin pump benefits include:
- Fewer injections
Every few days the infusion set must be changed and this likely will require an injection. Other than that, the pump eliminates needles.
- Greater blood sugar control
Insulin pumps have been shown to improve blood sugar management and lower A1C scores significantly.
- Fewer blood sugar lows
If you’re prone to bouts of hypoglycemia, an insulin pump, thanks to its continuous insulin flow can reduce your risk of unexpected lows.
For many people, insulin pumps make managing and treating their diabetes substantially easier. No more measuring insulin and injecting multiple times a day, instead, this is all taken care of by the pump.
Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM)
Anyone who has ever had to prick their finger multiple times a day to test their blood sugar understands how frustrating this can get after a while.
Continuous glucose monitoring systems (CGM) came along and virtually eliminated pin pricks by transmitting blood sugar levels regularly through a sensor placed just below the surface of the skin. Blood sugar measurements are sent to a wireless receiver or a smartphone as frequently as every minute, which means no more finger pricks and, more importantly, a far more accurate picture of blood sugar trends over time.
Continuous glucose monitoring helps diabetes physicians identify patterns in blood sugar fluctuations, which, in turn, helps them fine-tune treatment protocol. Additionally, most of these devices, such as the FreeStyle Libre and Dexcom G6 have been proven to lower A1C levels substantially in users. These units even feature alarms to warn you if blood sugar becomes too high or too low. The introduction of continuous glucose monitoring has been one of the biggest game changers in the history of diabetes management.
The Insulin Pen
The insulin pen is an innovation that replaces standard syringes for insulin injections. Some pens are disposable and come pre-filled with a prescribed amount of insulin. Other pens use interchangeable cartridges. Either way, a pen is the most convenient way to give yourself an insulin injection. Pen needles are available in different lengths and widths to suit just about every need. The key advantage is that you’re no longer required to measure insulin and fill syringes. That’s already done for you.
Even better, there are now Smart Pens that go beyond just delivering insulin. These devices also record the time, date, and dose of each insulin injection, making it easier to log and track treatments and share data with doctors and care teams for a more comprehensive treatment and management approach.
Integrated Insulin Pumps & CGMs
New innovations from companies like Medtronic have combined insulin pump technology with continuous glucose monitoring. The new MiniMed™ 770G is an insulin pump system that automatically adjusts insulin based on real-time glucose readings from an integrated CGM component. This marriage of devices can quickly detect and react to high or low blood sugar levels, minimizing the length of time a person experiences unhealthy fluctuations, and thereby contributing to extended periods spent within the target blood sugar range.
These days, it’s hard to imagine life without a smartphone, and for many living with diabetes the reasons go well beyond texting friends and posting to social media. Now, CGMs and insulin pumps can be integrated with smartphones to provide both maximum blood sugar control and maximum convenience. Additionally, there are countless apps now available that can help you do everything from monitor your calorie intake to track the exercise minutes you put in each week. Smartphones also are an easy way to join diabetes support communities, enjoy live chats with diabetes educators, and even take advantage of remote telemedicine appointments with your doctor. You have a phone. Why not use it to better manage your diabetes?
A Long List of New Diabetes Medications
Insulin has been used to manage diabetes since the 1920s and it is still an effective method for controlling blood sugar. However, research and science have led to new medication breakthroughs, many of which can be taken orally, that can help control diabetes. From medications that decrease glucose absorption to those that make the body more sensitive to insulin to those that slow down digestion to keep blood sugar from spiking, prescriptive medicine has come a long way in treating diabetes and surely more advancements are on the way.
More Expert Support - The Human Element
One thing that can’t be overlooked or overemphasized when it comes to effectively treating diabetes is the human element. Technology is wonderful, but the rigors of daily blood sugar management and the anxiety that comes with it often require support that’s a little more personal. Over the past decade, the rise in available diabetes education programs, specifically from Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (CDCES), as well as the many online and in-person support groups offered by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and other organizations have provided individuals and families with the support they need to better handle the hardships that come with managing diabetes. If you’re currently living with diabetes and finding things a little difficult, visit the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists to learn about support that just might make a big difference for you.
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Diabetic Warehouse is a trusted supplier of diabetic care products and accessories. For more information and to explore a complete range of products, including glucose meters and test strips, insulin syringes, pen needles, continuous glucose monitoring systems, and more, visit www.diabeticwarehouse.org.