Technology Advancement Is Changing The Lives Of Diabetics — Dr Chan Siew Pheng

Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) has revolutionised glucose monitoring, changing the lives of people living with diabetes.

World Diabetes Day 2021 falls on November 14 this year. It is a timely reminder for Malaysians especially as the prevalence of the disease in the country has been rising since 2006, according to the Malaysian National Health and Morbidity Surveys (NHMS).

The 2019 NHMS also found that the prevalence of diabetes increases with age, with 41.5 per cent of those above 60 having the disease in the country.

Three main factors contribute to this rise in the disease prevalence: an ageing population, an increasing number of overweight or obese people, and unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as increasing caloric intake and less physical activity.

For individuals with diabetes, it is essential to monitor one’s glucose, and blood glucose meters have come a long way.

Unlike the days when one would need to self-monitor by pricking the finger to test for blood sugar levels, technology advancement in recent years has resulted in the evolution of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) which has revolutionised glucose monitoring, changing the lives of people living with diabetes.  

With CGM, glucose levels are measured via a subcutaneously inserted sensor every 5 to 15 minutes around the clock. There are three types of CGM sensors currently available as follows:

  1. The real-time CGM allows the user to connect the sensor to a mobile app which can be downloaded.
  2. CGM can be integrated together with an insulin pump. 
  3. Flash CGM means the sensor can be intermittently scanned using a dedicated reader device. 

CGM monitors glucose constantly unlike self-monitoring which is done at selected times which are likely to miss variations in glucose levels ranging from very high to very low.

CGM can also aid in the detection of unrecognised (without symptoms) hypoglycaemia. Hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) needs to be detected and avoided in a timely manner as it can potentially cause accidents and injuries. 

Glucose monitoring is considered mandatory for people with diabetes who are on insulin because of the higher risk of having hypoglycaemia when on insulin compared to other glucose-lowering therapies.

However, CGM can be used by anyone who wishes to adjust their lifestyle as it helps assess glucose control for better quality of life. CGM has proven to be invaluable in detecting these highs and lows.

However, this is not a magic fix for everyone as the use of CGM needs discipline on the part of the user and detailed information while using the CGM in order for the patient to derive maximum benefit.

To derive maximum benefits, it is essential for the patient to be provided with structured diabetes education, training and support, assisted by a diabetes nurse educator or doctor. 

It is important that these patients get the right advice, education and other information that will allow them to understand the data and results obtained.

Malaysians with diabetes are encouraged to speak to their health care providers about CGM which is available online, at hospitals and pharmacies without a prescription.

Dr Chan Siew Pheng is a consultant endocrinologist at Subang Jaya Medical Centre.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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