When it comes to having diabetes, it’s important to have a good snapshot of your blood sugar levels and what causes your ups and downs. We’re here to explain the benefits of having a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), what they do, how they work and why they’re important to managing your diabetes.
What is a Continuous Glucose Monitor?
With CGM technology, you can have the most accurate blood sugar numbers and patterns whenever you need them. A CGM uses a sensor on your body to measure your blood sugar in real time. The traditional fingerstick test takes time and effort to set up — and time is of the essence if you’re having a low (hypoglycemia) or high (hyperglycemia) blood sugar episode. Fingerstick tests also wear on your fingers over time. You might still need to do some fingerstick tests with a CGM, but not as many.
CGMs provide accurate, around-the-clock assurance of knowing your blood sugar whenever you need to while you’re wearing one. And they’re more comfortable since you only have to stick yourself once every 1-2 weeks to place the sensor on your arm or belly. (The sensor has a small needle). A transmitter sends the data directly to your phone or a monitor. Some CGMs even allow for you to have the data sent to a family member or caregiver in case of an emergency.
How Do CGMs Work?
While there are a number of different CGMs on the market from which to choose, here’s a breakdown of how they typically work:
- You place a small sensor just under your skin, usually on your belly or arm. An applicator that comes with the CGM makes this process quick and easy. Adhesive tape holds the sensor in place.
- The sensor measures glucose levels in the fluid under your skin. Most CGM devices take readings every five minutes, all day and night. You’ll need to change the sensor regularly. For most CGMs, you change sensors at home every 7 to 14 days. For some long-term implantable CGM devices, your health care provider will change the sensor in a procedure in their office a few times each year.
- All CGM systems use a transmitter to wirelessly send the data from the sensor to a device where you can view your blood sugar numbers.
- Blood sugar data from the sensor is sent to either a handheld device called a receiver (similar to a cell phone), an app on your smartphone or an insulin pump.
- You can download CGM data (real-time glucose levels, trends and history) to a computer anytime. Some CGM systems will send data continuously. You can also share the data with your provider.
Benefits of Having a CGM
Using a CGM device can make it easier to manage Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, as well as reactive hypoglycemia. Some people use a CGM for a week or two to better understand their blood sugar patterns. Most patients use a CGM long-term.
A CGM can make living with diabetes easier by:
- Alerting you to blood sugar highs and lows
- Leading to more personalized care
- Reducing how many fingerstick tests you need to do
- Showing you a bigger picture of how diabetes affects you
Continuous Glucose Monitoring is Important to Your Whole Health
If you have diabetes, it’s important to stay as close to your target blood sugar range as possible. A CGM device will allow you to stay on top of your numbers and make it easier for you to live your best life. By seeing your patterns and how your numbers are affected by what you eat, how much you exercise and other lifestyle habits, you and your provider can develop a more personalized plan for caring for your diabetes.
To learn more about CGMs and how they can help you manage diabetes, visit us here. You can also reach out to your PCP or endocrinologist. We’re here to help you feel whole.