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Technology

Diabetics 365 – “Diabe-Techs”

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.

Wearable Technology and Diabetes

The introduction of wearable technology has made significant changes in health, but there is potential for wearable technology to revolutionize the medical field. These gadgets have made such a splash that the FDA is starting to loosen up, only slightly, on the development and usage of them. These devices are nice to show off to your friends, but they can help you in controlling your diabetes.

The Goliath in the wearable technology arena is the Apple Watch. Although Apple wasn’t the first to create a “smart watch” they are projected to be the front-runner. Although the watch doesn’t come with any healthy monitoring other than heart rate, Apple did develop a way for more advanced health monitoring apps to be added. Apple introduced “HealthKit”, which allows health and fitness application developers to share the user’s health information on a secure location.

Several companies have taken advantage of the opportunity. Dexcom, the manufacturer of Continuous Glucose Monitoring devices, has developed an app to do just that. The app pairs with their CGM meters and shows your levels on the watch. The app has several fantastic reviews on the app store from users that have tested it; “I frequently receive the signal of the receiver but have difficulty pulling it out or need to ask my wife to look at her iPhone to determine if I need to take action”. This can make checking your levels during meetings or while driving easier and discrete. While the Apple Watch isn’t specifically designed as a medical device, there are some great ways to utilize it as one.

Another tycoon in the wearable technology market is the activity tracker Fitbit. The Fitbit has become known for allowing users to track and share their daily activity. There are several styles of Fitbit to fit everyone’s needs. If you don’t want to wear a band on your wrist, they have a Fitbit Zip or the Fitbit One, which can be clipped anywhere.

Most people say that wearing a Fitbit motivates to be more active. Fitbits allow you to see your Fitbit friends’ activity and encourage them as well as challenge them. The motivation (or competition) to get up and move is great to help control their levels. Aside from being motivational, the Fitbit has a couple added advantages for diabetics.

The Fitbit’s graphs and tracking system are great ways to see trends in your levels. Users can enter their meals into the app or website to see how many calories they consume versus how many they burn during the day. It can also break down your sugar, carb, and protein intake based on what you eat. Coupled with the ability to log your sleep patterns, blood pressure, water intake, and glucose, the Fitbit makes a great companion for any diabetic.

Don’t think that just because it does all these things that it is difficult to use. The Fitbit app and website offer easy to read graphs. The devices can be set up by the least of “techy” people. The website and instruction manual walk you through the whole setup process, which doesn’t take long at all. Your Fitbit will even automatically sync with your computer or iPhone, so you don’t have to remember to upload your data.

With so many devices that record vital signs, it becomes much easier to spot problems. Having your heart rate, sleeping patterns, and calorie intake can identify areas that need improvement, or can help your doctor assess your medical needs.

If the price tags for an Apple Watch or Fitbit are too pricey for your budget, there are cheaper alternatives. The Basis Peak gives you the same measuring statistics at a much softer hit to the wallet. If you want an even cheaper option, you can buy a basic pedometer from your local drug store for under $10, it’s obviously not as fancy, but can still count your daily steps.

We are just now entering into the age of wearable technology. This could be a decade that makes huge developments for the diabetic community. The more information that diabetics have on their bodies, the better.