Are you confused about the types of different glucose monitors available and wonder what to use and whether or not you even should if you don’t have diabetes?
Well if you want to know everything you need to so you can make some more informed choices around glucose monitors, and in particular Continuous Glucose Monitors, then this is the information you need.
Helen, from Helen Jane Nutrition works with many clients that use glucose monitors and has also used them herself to be able to get a better understanding of the impacts of diet and lifestyle on blood sugar. So read on for everything you need to know about Continuous Glucose Monitors.
What Is A Continuous Glucose Monitor?
Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) are valuable devices used by individuals with diabetes to monitor their blood sugar levels consistently. They are particularly beneficial for those who require regular glucose monitoring, such as individuals with type 1 or type 2 diabetes who rely on insulin for managing their condition.
Unlike the need for frequent finger pricks, CGMs offer a continuous stream of information about glucose levels. These devices utilize small sensors placed beneath the skin, commonly on the tummy or arm. The sensors track glucose levels in the fluid surrounding cells and transmit the data to a receiver or smartphone app.
CGMs provide real-time readings of glucose levels and their fluctuations over time, acting as a personalized blood sugar detective. They allow users to observe how food choices, exercise, medications, and other factors impact their glucose levels. By leveraging these insights, individuals can make informed decisions about their dietary habits and activities to maintain more stable blood sugar levels.
One notable feature of CGMs is the inclusion of alarms and alerts. When glucose levels become excessively high or low, the device buzzes or beeps, promptly notifying the user. This capability proves immensely valuable in detecting dangerous spikes or drops in glucose levels before they escalate into significant problems.
By incorporating a continuous glucose monitor into their diabetes management, individuals can gain a better understanding of their unique glucose patterns. This knowledge empowers them to fine-tune their diabetes management plan and strive for enhanced control over their blood sugar levels. Essentially, CGMs serve as trustworthy companions, aiding individuals in effectively managing their diabetes.
Which Continuous Glucose Monitors Are Available In The UK?
Freestyle Libre: This CGM system uses a small sensor worn on the back of the upper arm, which measures glucose levels in the interstitial fluid. It provides real-time glucose readings, historical trends, and can be scanned with a reader device or compatible smartphone. The Libre system does not require fingerstick calibration but offers optional alarms for high and low glucose levels.
Dexcom G6: Dexcom G6 is a popular CGM system that also measures glucose in the interstitial fluid. It consists of a small sensor inserted under the skin, a transmitter, and a receiver or compatible smart device. The G6 provides real-time glucose readings, trend data, and customizable high and low glucose alarms. It requires calibration with a fingerstick twice a day.
Medtronic Guardian Connect: This CGM system uses a sensor placed under the skin and a transmitter that sends data to a compatible smartphone. It provides real-time glucose readings, trend information, and customizable high and low glucose alarms. The Guardian Connect requires calibration with a fingerstick multiple times a day.
Eversense XL: The Eversense XL CGM system utilizes a long-lasting implantable sensor that measures glucose levels in the interstitial fluid. It communicates with a transmitter that sends data to a compatible smart device. It provides real-time glucose readings, trend data, and customizable high and low glucose alarms. The Eversense XL system requires calibration with a fingerstick twice a day.
It’s important to note that each CGM system has its own features, benefits, and limitations. Factors such as accuracy, wear time, data accessibility, cost, and insurance coverage may also vary. It’s recommended to consult with healthcare professionals and CGM manufacturers to get the most up-to-date and accurate information about CGM options available in the UK.
Should You Use A Glucose Monitor If You Don't Have Diabetes?
CGMs provide valuable insights into how your body responds to various factors, such as different foods, exercise, or daily activities. By tracking glucose levels throughout the day, CGMs allow you to gather data and gain a deeper understanding of how these factors impact your body’s glucose regulation. This information empowers you to make informed decisions about your diet, exercise routine, and overall lifestyle, supporting your overall health and well-being.
In particular, CGMs can be of great assistance to individuals with conditions like prediabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or other disorders associated with blood sugar regulation. By identifying patterns or triggers that contribute to fluctuations in glucose levels, CGMs enable you to make necessary adjustments to support your health and manage these conditions effectively.
It is important to note that the use of CGMs in non-diabetic individuals may not be covered by insurance or healthcare systems. The cost of CGM devices and their components can be a significant consideration for those without a medical necessity for continuous glucose monitoring.
To make an informed decision about using a CGM, it is advisable to consult with a doctor or healthcare professional. They can provide personalized guidance based on your specific circumstances and goals, helping you determine if incorporating a CGM into your health monitoring routine would be beneficial for you.
What are best? Finger Prick Tests or Continuous Glucose Monitors?
When it comes to checking blood sugar levels, there are two main options: continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) and finger prick tests. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between the two depends on personal preferences and individual needs.
Finger prick tests, also known as self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG), involve pricking the finger with a lancet to obtain a small blood sample. This sample is then applied to a test strip and measured using a glucose meter. Here are some key factors to consider regarding finger prick tests:
Accuracy: Finger prick tests generally provide accurate real-time blood sugar readings. However, the accuracy can vary depending on the quality of the meter and the technique used.
Cost: The initial cost of a glucose meter is relatively low, and test strips are widely available. However, the ongoing cost of purchasing test strips can accumulate over time.
Convenience: Finger prick tests are relatively quick and easy to perform. Glucose meters are portable, allowing testing to be done anywhere. However, some individuals may find the process of pricking their finger each time to be uncomfortable or inconvenient.
On the other hand, CGMs are wearable devices that continuously monitor glucose levels throughout the day, eliminating the need for frequent finger pricks. Here are some considerations regarding CGMs:
Continuous monitoring: CGMs offer real-time glucose readings, allowing individuals to track their blood sugar levels continuously. This can be particularly beneficial for those with diabetes who require frequent monitoring or have fluctuating blood sugar levels.
Alerts and trends: CGMs can provide alerts for high or low blood sugar levels, helping individuals manage their condition proactively. They also offer trend data, illustrating how blood sugar levels change over time, which can be valuable for making informed treatment decisions.
Cost and availability: CGMs are generally more expensive upfront compared to glucose meters, and they require regular sensor replacements. Availability and coverage of CGMs through healthcare systems or insurance may vary.
In summary, finger prick tests are a well-established and cost-effective method for checking blood sugar levels. They provide real-time readings and can be performed anywhere. On the other hand, CGMs offer the advantage of continuous monitoring, alerts, and trend data, which can assist in effective diabetes management. Ultimately, the choice between the two depends on individual preferences, financial considerations, and specific needs. You should always consult your GP or healthcare professional to understand the best option for you.
How Much Do Continuous Glucose Monitors Cost?
If you’re wondering about the cost of CGMs, there are a few factors that can affect the price.
Brand and Model: Different companies offer CGMs in the UK, such as Abbott, Dexcom, and Medtronic. Each brand has various models with different features and accuracy. The cost can vary depending on the specific brand and model you choose.
Subscription Plans: CGMs usually require a subscription plan to cover ongoing expenses like sensor replacements, software updates, and customer support. The cost of these plans can differ across brands. Some plans may also provide additional services like data sharing and personalized insights. You can pay for the subscription on a monthly or annual basis, which adds to the overall cost.
Insurance Coverage: In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) may cover CGMs for certain groups of people with diabetes. This coverage is available for pregnant women with type 1 diabetes, those who experience severe hypoglycemia frequently, and individuals who require frequent insulin therapy adjustments. However, coverage criteria and availability can vary, so it’s important to check with healthcare professionals and insurance providers to understand your options.
Out-of-Pocket Expenses: If you don’t qualify for NHS coverage or prefer to purchase a CGM independently, you’ll have to pay for it out of pocket. The initial cost of a CGM starter kit can range from around £150 to £400. Additionally, ongoing expenses like sensor replacements, transmitter batteries, and other supplies will add to the overall cost.
How To Use A Continuous Glucose Monitor
A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a valuable tool used by individuals with diabetes to monitor their blood glucose levels in real time. It consists of three main components: a tiny sensor, a transmitter, and a receiver or smartphone app.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use a continuous glucose monitor effectively:
Sensor Placement: Start by selecting a suitable site on your body to place the sensor. Common locations include the abdomen, upper buttocks, or back of the upper arm. Clean the chosen area with an alcohol wipe and allow it to dry completely. Then, remove the sensor applicator cap and gently press the adhesive part against your skin, making sure it sticks firmly.
Activating the Sensor: Once the sensor is attached, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to activate it. This typically involves starting a new sensor session on the receiver or app, as well as entering the sensor’s unique code if necessary.
Sensor Warm-Up: CGMs require a warm-up period to allow the sensor to stabilize and provide accurate readings. This period can range from a few minutes to a couple of hours, depending on the specific CGM model. During this time, it’s essential to avoid strenuous exercise or consuming meals to ensure accurate readings.
Receiver or App Setup: If you’re using a standalone receiver, ensure it is turned on and within range of the transmitter. If you prefer using a smartphone app, download and install the CGM manufacturer’s app, following the provided instructions. Pair the receiver or app with the transmitter to establish a connection.
Monitoring Readings: Once the sensor warm-up is complete, you can start monitoring your glucose readings. The CGM will automatically measure your glucose levels at regular intervals (usually every few minutes) and display the results on the receiver or app. Some CGMs provide alarms or notifications for high or low glucose levels, which can be customized based on your preferences.
Analyzing Trends: CGMs offer more than just single glucose readings. Utilize the trend data provided by the device to gain insights into your glucose patterns over time. You can observe the direction your glucose levels are heading, detect patterns related to meals, exercise, or sleep, and make more informed decisions about managing your diabetes.
Responding to Alerts: If your CGM has alert features, it will notify you when your glucose levels go too high or too low. When alerted, take immediate action based on your healthcare provider’s instructions. Always carry appropriate diabetes supplies, such as glucose tablets or insulin, to address any hypo- or hyperglycaemic events promptly.
Calibration (if required): Depending on the CGM model, you may need to perform occasional blood glucose calibration. This involves using a traditional blood glucose meter to measure your blood sugar and entering the value into the CGM device to ensure accuracy. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for calibration frequency and process.
Sensor Replacement: CGM sensors have a limited lifespan, typically ranging from a few days to a couple of weeks. When the sensor reaches the end of its recommended wear time, remove it carefully and dispose of it as per your local guidelines. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for inserting a new sensor and repeat the process.
Remember, while CGMs provide valuable real-time data, they are not a replacement for regular fingerstick blood glucose monitoring or advice from your healthcare provider. Always consult your doctor or diabetes care team for guidance on using a CGM effectively and making appropriate adjustments to your diabetes management plan.
If you want more information about how your blood sugar levels may be impacting your health or are still wondering about whether you should monitor your levels and want to know what you can can do to improve your blood sugar levels through diet and lifestyle then get in touch with Helen here to book a free 20 minute call.