Minor fluctuations in blood glucose levels are a normal part of the physical processes of the body. Diabetes patients, however, often suffer from extreme or continual fluctuations of blood sugar levels due to a decreased sensitivity to insulin. Without proper monitoring and management, excessive shifts in blood glucose can lead to serious side effects that may include the following:
• Blurry vision
• Lack of mental focus
• Mood disturbances
• Unexplained sweating
• Heart irregularities
• Hypoglycemic coma
In most cases, close monitoring of blood sugar levels is required to bring these fluctuations back into the normal range and avoid these complications. Diabetes patients should learn the difference between a fingerstick and a continuous glucose meter in order to manage their blood sugar levels effectively and ensure optimal control over the progress of their medical condition.
Fingerstick glucose meters get their name from the typical method of drawing blood for these tests: Patients usually use a sterile lancet to obtain a single drop of blood from the tip of a finger. That blood is then applied to a testing strip and placed inside the meter for reading.
Fingerstick testing is highly accurate but requires a new drop of blood and a new testing strip for each time testing is performed. As a result, fingerstick tests are not suited to repeat testing over the course of hours and days. Continuous glucose monitoring systems can provide a more appropriate solution for diabetes patients who require a greater degree of monitoring.
Continuous glucose metering systems
Some patients may have difficulty in achieving control over severe fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Finding the right balance between diet, exercise, and insulin therapy can be a challenging undertaking in these cases. Continuous glucose meters can sometimes provide the necessary information for physicians in determining the most appropriate course of treatment for these patients. Designed to be worn for up to a week at a time, continuous glucose meters automatically test blood glucose levels at regular intervals, usually five minutes apart.
The readings are stored in an internal data drive and can be downloaded at home or in the doctor‘s office to identify trends and establish connections between food intake, exercise and activity, and the consequent blood sugar levels associated with each of these factors. This information can allow physicians to determine the most effective times and dosages for insulin treatments and food intake, allowing patients to maintain a greater degree of control over their condition.
For patients with well-controlled diabetes and few major fluctuations in blood sugar levels, fingerstick testing may be sufficient to manage the progress of the disease. In other cases, however, a continuous glucose monitoring system may provide the added data necessary to allow a greater degree of control and an improved prognosis for the diabetes sufferer.