Continuous glucose monitoring devices and insulin pumps used together may more effectively manage blood sugar levels in people with Type 1 diabetes while offering them a better quality of life than traditional methods, according new research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Though the newer technologies cost more, patients say they're happier with them than with giving themselves multiple insulin shots a day. The researchers looked at 33 randomized trials comparing the two new methods with traditional treatment for people with the condition, also known as juvenile diabetes. It makes up 5 percent to 10 percent of the population with diabetes.
Traditionally, these people had to stick their fingers multiple times a day--and after meals--to draw blood for a glucose meter. Continuous monitoring devices use a sensor attached to the abdomen with a small needle held in place by tape. It sends results to a display worn on a belt that sounds alarms if the sugar level is too high or low. Users still have to stick their fingers two to four times a day, but still down from eight or 10 times a day in traditional treatment.
Small insulin pumps attach to a tube and needle under the skin on the belly, providing insulin around the clock, as needed, programmed based on finger sticks or continuous monitoring devices.
The study found little difference in blood sugar control between those who give themselves multiple insulin shots a day and those who used insulin pumps. However, those who used the pumps along with continuous glucose monitoring devices, were able to better control their blood sugar.
"We found that certain devices confer real benefits," one of the study's authors, Sherita Hill Golden, an associate professor in the division of endocrinology and metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in an announcement. "Adherence is the key to effectiveness."
Highly motivated patients in expert settings were most likely to benefit from these technologies, reports Clinical Endocrinology News.
Insulin pumps cost $6,000 to $7,000, and supplies cost approximately $2,000 a year, the authors noted. Real-time continuous glucose monitoring costs approximately $5,000 a year and insurance plans may not cover these costs, limiting the use of these treatments.
Apps to monitor glucose levels are proliferating and developers are learning what keeps users, especially teens, motivated to stay with them. A recent study found that teens who used a diabetes-management app called Bant measured their glucose levels 50 percent more often than teens who didn't.