What is glucose monitoring?
Glucose monitoring helps people with diabetes manage the disease and avoid its associated problems. A person can use the results of glucose monitoring to make decisions about food, physical activity, and medications. The most common way to check glucose levels involves pricking a fingertip with an automatic lancing device to obtain a blood sample and then using a glucose meter to measure the blood sample's glucose level.
Drawing of a glucose meter and a person using a lancing device to obtain a blood sample from a fingertip for testing with the meter.
Many types of glucose meters are available, and all are accurate and reliable if used properly. See the American Diabetes Associations annual resource guide at www.diabetes.org for more information. Some meters use a blood sample from a less sensitive area than the fingertip, such as the upper arm, forearm, or thigh.
What is continuous glucose monitoring?
Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems use a tiny sensor inserted under the skin to check glucose levels in tissue fluid. The sensor stays in place for several days to a week and then must be replaced. A transmitter sends information about glucose levels via radio waves from the sensor to a pager-like wireless monitor. The user must check blood samples with a glucose meter to program the devices. Because currently approved CGM devices are not as accurate and reliable as standard blood glucose meters, users should confirm glucose levels with a meter before making a change in treatment.
CGM systems provide glucose measurements as often as once per minute. The measurements are transmitted to a wireless monitor.
CGM systems are more expensive than conventional glucose monitoring, but they may enable better glucose control. CGM devices produced by Abbott, DexCom, and Medtronic have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are available by prescription. These devices provide real-time measurements of glucose levels, with glucose levels displayed at 5-minute or 1-minute intervals. Users can set alarms to alert them when glucose levels are too low or too high. Special software is available to download data from the devices to a computer for tracking and analysis of patterns and trends, and the systems can display trend graphs on the monitor screen.