Continuous monitoring, insulin pumps control blood sugar better

Newer technologies to monitor blood glucose levels are better than traditional methods at helping people manage their type 1 diabetes, according to a study by Johns Hopkins University.

The study found that people with insulin pumps are more satisfied with their treatment and quality of life than those who give themselves shots many times a day.

Although more costly, these newer diabetic control technologies are less painful because they require fewer needle sticks.

Type 1 diabetes

In type 1 diabetes, the body does not make insulin to regulate the body's use of sugar. About 5 to 10 percent of people living with diabetes have type 1.

People living with type 1 diabetes must monitor their glucose levels frequently, such as before and after meals and at other times.

Traditionally, patients must prick their finger 8 to 10 times a day to collect blood to test serum glucose.

Continuous monitoring devices

The study reviewed trials comparing real-time continuous glucose monitoring devices and insulin pumps to conventional methods.

According to Johns Hopkins, continuous monitoring devices track blood sugar levels throughout the day and night at five-minute intervals.

The devices use a sensor that is attached to the abdomen with a small needle and sends results to a display worn on a belt. An alarm sounds if the blood glucose level is dangerously high or low.

Patients can adjust their insulin therapy based on the readings. They still need to prick their fingers two to four times a day as a back up to the device.

Insulin pumps

Insulin pumps are another new technology that provides insulin day and night, as needed. Patients use finger stick glucose measurements or link the pump to a continuous monitor.

These small devices have a small tube and needle that goes under the skin in the belly.

People with diabetes can program their insulin pumps by pushing a button.

Lower blood sugar levels overall

The study found that there was little difference in blood sugar control in those who used insulin pumps and those who give themselves multiple insulin shots every day.

However, pumps that include real-time continuous monitoring devices did much better controlling blood glucose than finger stick testing and shots.

The Johns Hopkins team found that patients of all ages who used continuous monitoring devices had lower blood glucose levels than people using conventional methods.

Researchers found that patients spent less time overall with high blood sugar.

"Our study was designed to help patients and physicians better understand the effectiveness of insulin pumps and blood sugar sensors that provide constant glucose monitoring compared to conventional approaches," said Serita Hill Golden, MD, associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and senior author of the study.

Costly devices

Not all insurance companies cover the new technologies, according to Johns Hopkins.

Medicare doesn't cover the real-time continuous glucose monitoring devices, researchers said.

Researchers said that since the new devices are more expensive, the patients who will get the most benefit should use them.

Source: Johns Hopkins University

Racecare driver Charlie Kimball Shows His Dexcom Glucose Monitor. Photo by Michael Johnson

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