Diabetic glucose monitor research is moving quickly. There is hope that soon we will have ways to test our blood sugar without using test strips and drops of blood. Every diabetes doctor knows that testing more often will improve the health of a type 1 or type 2 diabetic.
The problem with testing has always been the pain and inconvenience. Convincing teens on the go and older folks on tight budgets to do more frequent blood tests is not easy.
From the first home testing glucose monitor to the ones we use today, drawing a drop of blood has been the only foolproof way to know your blood sugar. A type 2 diabetic who is not on insulin may test once a day while a type 2 on insulin advised to test at least four times every day.
The First Continuous Glucose Monitor
Brittle type 1 diabetics need to test as often as every 15 minutes to watch for hypoglycemia. It's the only way to ensure they do not enter a diabetic coma. Many parents set their alarms to wake up several times a night and check on their diabetic children, who would not wake up from a dangerously low blood sugar on their own.
The answer is a continuous monitor worn day and night. And there are some on the market right now. They use a special sensor needle inserted under the skin that is connected by wire or wirelessly to a receiver. Some receivers are as small as a cell phone, and some sit on a bedside table at night.
The needle has to be recalibrated every day and replaced every few days because scar tissue forms around it and makes it useless. But the continuous diabetic glucose monitor works, and teamed with an alarm system it gives parents of type 1 diabetic children a chance to sleep.
Another option made by Sleep Sentry will wake you from sleep if it detects two of the symptoms of hypoglycemia. It does not test blood sugar but it sounds an alarm if your temperature drops or you begin to sweat, two of the signs of hypoglycemia.
This would be a help for diabetics who have had too many hypoglycemic events and become unaware of low blood sugar. And older diabetics may find strapping on this sensor give them some peace of mind, especially if they live alone.
But older diabetics with automatic neuropathy might not get any benefit since since they may not sweat with low blood sugar. They need something that actually reads their blood sugar levels.
Glucose Monitors Without Test Strips
A true wireless implantable glucose sensor has been made by GlySens. It is pretty small, about the size of a sandwich cookie. Their plan is to implant it in the torso of a diabetic and get continuous readings on something like a cell phone.
So far the implant has worn about 500 days without having to be replaced, but as of 2010 it had only been tried on pigs. Human trials were set to begin that year, so it may be several more years before we see them on the market.
Lightouch Medical is making a monitor that uses light sensors on your fingertip to measure glucose. OrSense is doing the same, but their monitor is planned for use only in hospitals right now.
Sensys Medical has a monitor that uses near infrared. You would lay your arm on the device to let it sense your blood sugar. Right now the monitor is having accuracy problems because of skin variations and changes. But they plan to make a home glucose monitor some day.
At MIT, a famous US college, they are using an implanted tattoo with what they call nano-ink. When the ink is exposed to glucose it flouresces (sends out light). A sensor that measures the changes is worn like a watch and gives blood sugar readouts.
So far they have found the tattoo lasts about six months before it stops working. And others are working on tiny implantable detectors that use the flourescent idea, but nothing is even near ready for FDA approval.
The University of Western Ontario is making contact lenses that change color as they detect the rise and fall of blood sugar. These use nanotechnology, using particles the size of molecules imbedded in a contact lens.
It will not give you an accurate blood sugar reading, but it will warn you of low and high blood sugar during the day.
The Future of Glucose Monitor Testing
There is a frantic race all over the world to find better ways to test blood sugar in diabetics, and the reason is not hard to find. Billions of dollars are spent every year on test strips, monitors and other devices, and the market is growing because type 2 diabetes is a world wide epidemic.
Type 1 diabetes is getting closer and closer to a cure, but there is still a desperate need for a really good continuous diabetic glucose monitor. It has to be one that children and teens can use.
With so much competition and so much money being invested, we are bound to see the end of finger sticking, test strips and hand held glucose monitors, and it is not far away. We'll keep watching and report what happens as science fiction becomes reality.