Many people with diabetes dread the frequent testing necessary to monitor their glucose levels—testing that generally involves pricking their fingers to draw blood. A diabetes sensor offers an efficient and less-painful alternative to the traditional glucose meter. Formally known as a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), this sensor for diabetes is inserted under the skin, where it continuously checks the patient’s glucose levels for up to seven days. The monitor sends a signal every few minutes to a device similar to a pager. This device then displays the diabetic’s glucose levels and alerts the patient if dangerously high or low blood-sugar levels are reached.

These continuous glucose monitors have gained popularity as technology continues to improve. In the last few years, federal officials have approved the use of this type of diabetes sensor for children, and scientists are currently testing monitors that can remain implanted in a diabetic’s body for more than a year, eliminating the need for frequent replacement.


Advantages of a Diabetes Sensor


There are several advantages to using a continuous glucose monitor. One of the most appealing aspects of such monitoring is that patients do not have to prick their fingers several times a day to achieve results. This freedom from pain may encourage patients to monitor their glucose levels who were previously resistant. Another plus is the round-the-clock monitoring. A diabetes sensor provides a near-constant update and sounds the alarm when glucose levels are too high or too low. This is especially comforting to parents of diabetic children. Instead of parents waking up throughout the night to test their children, a sensor can alert them if the child’s glucose level becomes dangerous. Also, with a sensor for diabetes, patients can monitor glucose levels during times when they traditionally would not test, such as overnight while they are sleeping.


Disadvantages of a Diabetes Sensor


Despite the convenience they offer, continuous glucose monitors have their disadvantages. These sensors are expensive, and many times they are not covered by medical insurance. The high cost may make a sensor for diabetes an impractical option for many patients.

Another downside to these monitors is that they test interstitial fluid, or cell fluid. As such, patients must calibrate the continuous glucose monitor with a blood glucose measurement obtained from a traditional finger-prick test. This means the patient cannot avoid finger-pricking entirely. Furthermore, there is a lag time between when a patient’s blood glucose changes and when this variation appears in the interstitial fluid being tested. As such, if patients detect a problem using a diabetes sensor, doctors advise them to double-check their glucose level with a traditional glucose test—finger-pricking and all.


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