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A person adds blood from a pinprick on their finger to their Blood Glucose Monitor.
A person adds blood from a pinprick on their finger to their Blood Glucose Monitor.
A person adds blood from a pinprick on their finger to their Blood Glucose Monitor.

Blood glucose monitoring VS continuous glucose monitoring

Regular glucose monitoring is the main way people with diabetes can manage their condition. By using glucose monitoring devices to check your blood glucose levels routinely, you’ll know when your blood sugar levels is too high or too low, both of which can cause serious health problems.

Knowing your blood glucose levels will also help in deciding what and how much to eat, how much to exercise, and whether any medication or visits to the doctor are required.13

Measuring your blood sugar levels

The most popular method of measuring your blood sugar levels is blood glucose monitoring (BGM). This is done through blood glucose meters, small machines which work by analysing a small amount of blood from the fingertip. A lancet attached to the diabetes machine lightly pricks the skin to obtain the blood. The blood glucose meter then tells you your current blood sugar levels.

While glucose monitoring devices are small and easy to use,17 the process of pricking your finger several times a day for years can get painful and tiring. BGM sugar test machines only measure your blood sugar levels at the moment, which means the diabetes machine may say your blood sugar level is low at this second, but cannot tell what it will be an hour later.

An hour later, you would have to take out your blood glucose meter, prick, and test again. If you’re having a busy day, this can get frustrating. For example, if you are in meetings all day, attending a wedding, or at the beach, you will have to keep excusing yourself to measure your blood glucose levels. You would have to keep the diabetes machine with you at all times and prick and test.

Continuous glucose monitoring machine

This is why continuous glucose monitoring machines (CGMs) are becoming increasingly popular diabetes machines. Unlike BGMs, CGM don’t require finger pricking. While blood glucose monitoring devices measure the glucose in your blood, continuous glucose monitoring devices measure the glucose levels in the interstitial fluid. The interstitial fluid sits in between the cells of your body.

Instead of finger pricking, continuous glucose monitoring devices work with a sensor and a reader. With glucose monitoring devices like Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre, all you need to do is apply the sensor to your arm and then initiate a one-second painless scan.17 You will then receive your current glucose reading, your glucose level from anytime to eight hours ago, and the direction in which your glucose levels are heading now. The reader also stores 90 days of data. CGM give you an ongoing idea of where your glucose level is and where it’s headed.

They can predict a low blood sugar 20-30 minutes before it happens. Knowing whether your blood glucose levels are on the rise or getting too low can save you from having to take medication or suffering from fatigue and other health problems. You can also identify patterns and trends, such as times of the day when your glucose levels usually get high and times when they usually get low, making it easier to prepare and take action as needed.

Continuous glucose monitoring devices are very easy to use. While the sensor must be continuously worn, it can be worn under your clothes, and while you exercise, bathe, and swim. Unlike finger pricking, using a sensor won’t interrupt your day. You can take out the small reader, use it to scan and see your data at any time, without anyone noticing. It’s like checking your phone for notifications.

It’s ideal for anyone with a phobia of needles and blood, and perfect for children as well. Instead of painfully pricking your child’s finger with a sugar test machine several times a day, you can just put a sensor on him or her and take a reading. Knowing the trends of your child’s glucose levels will make it easier to plan meals for them as well.

For more about glucose monitoring devices and sugar test machines, check out our other blogs and website.

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Abbreviations: BGM: blood glucose monitoring; CGM: continuous glucose monitoring.

References: 13. Fokkert M, et al. BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care. 2019;7:e000809. 17. Haak T, et al. Diabetes Ther. 2017;8(1):55-73.

Disclaimer – Images are for illustration purpose only. No actual patient data. Any person depicted in the photos is a model.