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  • Writer's pictureMackenzie Chen

A New Sidekick: Continuous Glucose Monitoring Devices

A robot-like sidekick has come to life in the form of a CGM (continuous glucose monitoring) device. The sensor checks your blood glucose levels 24 hours a day, drastically shaping how diabetic patients maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle. One glimpse at the monitoring device connected to the sensor shows you overall trends in your blood sugar levels throughout the day, making it much easier for people with diabetes to stay healthy.

Normally, when people eat, the food they eat gets broken down into sugar, which is released into the bloodstream. This sudden uptake in blood sugar signals the pancreas to release the hormone insulin. In a continuous “signaling” cycle, insulin alerts the body’s cells to take in the sugar and use it for energy.

Unfortunately, for people with diabetes, they either cannot produce insulin or utilize it properly, leading to a sharp increase of blood sugar in the bloodstream. This has damaging health effects as it can lead to heart disease, vision loss, and more.

Currently, there is no permanent treatment for diabetes. Instead, patients take a variety of medications to help overcome the complications brought by diabetes and make specific lifestyle changes. For example, for a Type 1 diabetic patient, who cannot readily produce insulin, they must use an insulin pen to inject insulin into their system. On the other hand, for a Type 2 diabetic patient, who has decreased insulin sensitivity, they must focus on consuming healthier meals and engaging in regular physical exercise, as well as taking diabetes medication.

A CGM device can thus make the lives of diabetic patients much easier. By providing 24/7, regularly updated statistics on a person’s blood sugar levels, people can receive alerts as to when their blood sugar is low and avoid the consequences of that, such as altered mental status. CGM devices make sure that people with diabetes can go about their lives and dreams normally without being as hindered as before by the difficulties brought on by their condition.

Throughout history, scientists have continually revamped and enhanced the continuous glucose monitoring device. From creating machines that required less blood to test for blood sugar levels to making it so that one’s cell phone could receive data on blood glucose, researchers and doctors have worked tirelessly to improve devices that revolutionize the worlds of medicine and technology as we know it.

It is difficult to imagine that all of this data collection is reliant on a single sensor inserted underneath the skin on the stomach or arm. Once data is collected on blood sugar levels every few minutes, that sensor wirelessly transmits the information to a monitoring device or a smartphone. Yet, the CGM is only the start of a wave of technological innovations in biomedicine. Science is constantly changing and adapting to the various biological struggles humans go through on a day-to-day basis. In the meantime, the CGM still does an effective job of making the lives of diabetic patients just a little bit easier.

Mackenzie Chen is a 1st Year student at the University of Virginia.


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