For many people living with diabetes, technology is an integral part of managing the condition. It helps reduce human errors, save stress, and even reduce treatment costs in some cases.
Today, people have more tools to manage their illness than ever. This article will go into the different types of diabetes technology available in the UK to help you understand which device may suit you.
Diabetes Technology in the UK (An Overview)
Almost 5 million people in the UK have diabetes or are at risk of developing the condition. Diabetes tech aims to help people diagnosed effectively manage their condition and improve their quality of life. These devices can do anything from controlling blood sugar levels to monitoring blood pressure and even delivering insulin whenever needed.
Data-driven analytical tools can help review and interpret medical records, including unstructured data from different clinics, and identify patients at risk of developing DFD. After analysis, people can get an immediate referral to a vascular surgeon to reduce the amputation risks.
Types of Diabetes Technology in the UK
Depending on your type of diabetes, you may be familiar with techs like blood glucose monitors and insulin pens. Tech for diabetes falls into different categories, and what you choose depends on your medical history.
Smart insulin pen: A smart insulin pen is a popular device that can pair with a smartphone app. It helps calculate and track doses to remind people with diabetes of their insulin levels. Most smart insulin pens come as add-ons to your current insulin pen, or they could be reusable and filled with cartridges instead of vials.
Insulin pump: Small electronic devices that release insulin into the body through a catheter. Most are battery-powered and can pump insulin into the body during the day and night. They can also infuse insulin into the blood rapidly before meals when needed.
Pros Smart Insulin Pen and Insulin Pump
Syringe and glucose monitor in a case
Here are the advantages of choosing an insulin pen:
Allows precise dosage adjustments and ensures accurate insulin administration.
Portable and comes with loaded medication.
Available in color-coded forms, making it easy to identify the type of insulin you're using.
Some smart insulin pens come with memory functions that help record the time and dose of each shot.
If you're considering an insulin pump, here's why you can go for one:
Constant supply of insulin without injection.
Ability to set different basal rates at different times of the day.
Cons of Smart Insulin Pen and Insulin Pump
Here are some downsides to choosing an insulin pen:
Most insulin pens are expensive.
Insulin pens require you to inject yourself regularly to administer the hormone.
Here are some disadvantages of choosing an insulin pump:
Pumps can be expensive to purchase.
There are risks of developing a skin infection due to the catheter implanted under the skin.
How to Choose The Right Tech for Insulin Delivery (Smart Insulin Pen and Insulin Pump)
Before you get a smart insulin pen, here's what to look out for:
Pen needles that can fit into most brands of insulin pen.
Length of the needle, as shorter needles work for all body types.
Higher gauge of needle thickness — a higher gauge means you're using a thinner needle, which is typically less painful.
Before getting an insulin pump, here are some considerations:
Choose a pump suitable for your lifestyle, such as one with a handheld remote for extra convenience.
Consider the size of the reservoir. Most hold between 176 and 315 units, but lower-unit pumps are more suitable for kids.
Go for a pump that can deliver small amounts, especially for kids.
Integration with blood glucose meters or other types of diabetes technology.
Opt for a pump with software that runs on your phone, as it's more mobile.
For Blood Glucose Monitoring
Glucose monitoring app
Blood sugar monitoring is important in managing type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It helps you know when to see your doctor, change diet plans, or take medication. Information from blood glucose monitoring can also help prevent possible complications of diabetes.
When you need to monitor your blood glucose levels, tech informs you whenever you need to take action to improve your health. Some also help take those steps for you.
Types of Tech for Blood Glucose Monitoring
Flash glucose monitor: These monitors measure, display, and store glucose readings for later use. It's suitable for adults to make reasonable diabetes treatment decisions like insulin dosing without finger prick. Flash glucose monitoring systems use externally worn sensors to transmit glucose readings and trends to the user.
Here are some advantages of going for a Flash Glucose Monitor:
Users can set an alarm for when blood sugar is too low or too high.
You can know your blood glucose levels at times you normally can't, like at night.
You can observe blood sugar trends over a fixed period.
Here are some advantages of choosing a CGM:
Continuous glucose monitors can work with your insulin pump to provide the hormone when necessary.
You can have better glycemic control with a continuous glucose monitor since it provides constant feedback on insulin, diet, and exercise.
Allows adjustment of insulin dosing based on real-time readings and trends.
Cons of Flash Glucose Monitor and CGM
Some downsides of flash devices are:
Adapting to using the technology typically takes some time.
There is a possibility of data overload, which may cause mild anxiety.
Here are some disadvantages of CGM:
Relatively expensive if not covered by insurance in the UK.
Learning how to use it may be complicated from the start.
Sensors on the skin may be irritating.
How to Choose The Right Tech for Blood Glucose Monitoring (Flash Glucose Monitor and CGM)
When choosing your flash glucose monitor, here's what you should consider:
Cost and insurance coverage: If your chosen device exceeds your budget, confirm that your insurance covers the bill before purchasing. If they do not, you can go for a cheaper alternative.
Features: Apart from the basic functionalities, look for something different and unique to ease your daily activities.
Before getting a CGM, ensure you have a look at these:
Compatibility with insulin pump: Ensure your pump can integrate with your CGM to provide insulin when necessary.
Accuracy of CGM: Ensure you use a monitor with a good track record.
Ease of use: Your CGM shouldn't be difficult to understand and use when necessary.
Lifestyle factors like food, physical activity, and stress management play a significant role in managing diabetes. However, some may need help to constantly monitor their lifestyle choices to stay healthy.
Ketone monitors: These monitors measure and report the amount of ketones in the blood. Ketones are harmful chemicals that may develop due to insufficient insulin. When ketone levels are high, it results in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). You also need to get ketone test strips to use a ketone monitor, as those for glucose don't work.
Carb counting app: These will help you meet dietary goals and monitor progress. Some apps only offer macros tracking (macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats), while others include meal planning. Apps with the meal planning feature can help you stay within your target carb limit for a period.
Exercise monitoring app: These types of apps are the most common for people managing diabetes. Some common examples are Fitbit and Apple Activity. Most include features that will help you understand your activity levels and fitness goals. For instance, you can review your exercises, stand goals, and even sleep on Apple Activity.
Pros of Ketone Monitors and Lifestyle Monitoring Apps
Pros of ketone monitors include:
Shows the amount of ketone in the blood after noticeable signs of illness, dehydration, or a spike in blood sugar. This result can be helpful when consulting your doctor.
The ketone testing meters are straightforward to understand compared to the CGMs.
Pros of Lifestyle monitoring apps (Carb counting and exercise monitoring) are:
Carb-counting apps can help you match your food intake with your level of activity.
Exercise monitoring apps help you stay aware of your fitness level, including the amount of calories burned in a physical activity.
Motivates you to stay consistent with your fitness journey.
Cons of Ketone Monitors and Lifestyle Monitoring Apps
Cons of ketone monitors are:
Blood ketone test strips are typically expensive.
All ketone monitors require a meter, which isn't always portable, depending on the brand.
Cons of Lifestyle monitoring apps include:
Constant alerts and notifications can slightly induce anxiety.
Fitness apps are not always 100% accurate.
How to Choose the Right Tech for Lifestyle
Here's what to consider before picking a ketone monitor:
Trusted brand: Ensure you choose a brand with a good reputation and reviews.
Accuracy: Some ketone monitors and carb counters aren't accurate. So, ensure you speak to your doctor to get the right
Variety of exercises: Choose apps that have exercises for different muscle groups with regularly updated options.
Compatibility with a wearable device: If you have a smartwatch, ensure your fitness app can work hand-in-hand with it to give the best results. Some smartwatches sync with fitness apps to provide readings like blood oxygen level, heart rate, and more while exercising.
Alternative to Insulin Delivery or More Advanced Tech
Insujet needle-free kit
Apart from pumps, you can choose other insulin delivery devices that are suitable for people with diabetes. Some of these alternatives are:
These are patch pumps for people with type 2 diabetes who need several daily injections. People using the device get continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion over 24 hours for basal insulin rates of 20, 30, or 40 units in a full day.