Technology has come a long way since the introduction of the first glucose meter in the 70’s, which some of you may remember. Improvements in the medical field have drastically changed the way that we view diabetes, and it’s treatment. There are tons of big ideas for medical technology being hatched every day, but we have a few particular gadgets that you should be aware of.
Google is working with Novartis, a Swiss pharmaceutical company, to create a “smart” contact lens that will constantly update the user on their glucose levels using the fluids in the eye. The smart lens uses software sandwiched between two thin layers of contact material and could notify users using tiny lights if the blood sugar is too high or too low.
This will enable diabetics to have a real-time analysis of their glucose levels. The lens would eliminate the need for an external monitor that requires you to prick your finger, making the task painless and less cumbersome. Another added benefit is it would eliminate the possibility that you forget to check your levels or that you wouldn’t check it as often as you should.
The smart lens could receive a few snags from the diabetic community. Many diabetics will not trust putting an electronic device on their eyeball. Others will prefer the “old-fashioned way” of using a trusted glucose meter. They will also have to pass the wearable technology through the FDA rules and regulations. Only time will tell if there is any long-term side effect of the lens being in contact with the eye.
Another big step in the field of diabetes is a manmade pancreas. This idea has been around for decades but is making huge leaps in becoming available to the public. Researchers at Boston University have begun testing their artificial pancreas that evaluates glucose levels every five minutes and administers glucagon if needed. The manmade pancreas can also send the readings to the user’s smartphone that could be synced to their physician’s database making checkup visits seamless. Most researchers believe that a successful artificial pancreas could drastically change the treatment of type 1 diabetes patients and cause fewer interruptions in the patient’s everyday life.
While some of this technology might be years away, there are plenty of gadgets already available to you! There are over 1,000 applications for smartphones that can help you manage your diabetes. There are apps to help you track your daily activity, your calorie/carb intake, daily water consumption, and much more for free or a small fee.
“Fooducate” is the most notable of these apps. This app goes beyond counting calories and tracking your weight gain/loss; it helps show you exactly what you’re putting into your body with every meal. By entering the ingredients or simply scanning the barcode of your meal, Fooducate will break down exactly what it’s made of. This can help you control and manage the amount of sugar and fat that you consume. Apps like Fooducate can help educate the user on the amount of sugar and carb they intake, which can help pinpoint areas that need to be improved. Fooducate even offers an online site that includes a community page to discuss struggles and accomplishments and share healthy recipes.
Companies are constantly producing smaller, more accurate, and easier to use glucose meters. The Dexcom G4 Platinum system provides continuous glucose monitoring on a discreet device. The G4 tracks trends in blood sugar and allows the readings to be shared with a loved one or physician via a smartphone or smart watch. This built-in share feature is perfect for parents of diabetic children while they are at school, or those who have elderly parents with diabetes.
Continuous glucose monitoring can help patients of diabetes look to see what points of the day they suffer from dips/spikes in their blood sugar. Seeing these trends can make it easier to avoid the mistakes that lead to the hyper/hypoglycemia.
Continuous glucose monitoring does have a few disadvantages. It does not eliminate the need for a traditional meter using finger pricking. It also carries a heavy price tag with the equipment, which may not be covered by insurance.
One problem with all this new technology is that we still do not know how long it will be until the automatic lens or manmade pancreas will be ready for everyday use, and who knows how well it will work for everyone. The other problem is the cost of these gadgets. Just like all other technology, when it first hits the shelves, only a few can afford it.
These are just a couple of the many notable changes impacting the diabetic community. These are evidence to the fact that we are looking towards a better tomorrow for those suffering from diabetes. There are constantly researchers looking for ways to improve the medications and the ways that we manage diabetes. The rate that new technology is developed increases every year, so who knows what the next few years will hold.