Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects around 1.6 million Americans. By 2050, it is expected that this number will have risen to around 5 million. The condition is characterized by an inability to produce the hormone insulin. Insulin is a crucial hormone in humans – allowing the body to convert sugars in the blood into useful energy. Type 1 diabetics must regulate their blood sugar themselves using insulin and through the regular checking of their blood sugar.
Synthetic insulin is a relatively new invention – having been invented in the 1970s. This was a huge leap forward, but it was not a dead end. Technology is constantly being developed that can help people with diabetes to live long and healthy lives. Here is a guide to some of the most important developments in diabetes care.
In order to remain healthy and prevent problems such as neuropathy (nerve damage), diabetics and their medical teams have to keep an eye on the long-term patterns in their blood sugar readings. This used to involve the keeping of a diary – listing all blood sugar readings in order to identify patterns. The ubiquity of mobile technology has made monitoring long-term blood sugar patterns much easier. Many blood sugar monitors are now compatible with mobile applications. A blood glucose meter with an app that can be linked to it can record and produce analytics very easily.
Testing blood sugar levels is an essential part of being a diabetic, but it is also inconvenient, creates lots of waste, and can become painful after a while. One of the most significant technological breakthroughs in diabetes care has been the development of blood sugar monitoring patches. These subdermal patches are continuously in contact with blood. They can be ‘tapped’ with a Bluetooth-capable phone in order to take a reading. Many Americans are adopting these systems. In some countries, like the United Kingdom, these systems are being made available as part of National Health Service coverage for type 1 diabetics.
Continuous Blood Sugar Monitoring
For people with diabetes that have poor control over their blood sugar, continuous monitoring can help them improve their lives. Continuous monitoring patches constantly update users – giving them an alarm on their mobile telephones when their blood sugar strays too high or too low. In people with a history of uncontrolled diabetes, blood sugar can be very hard to wrestle with. Continuous monitoring can be a great help in cases like this.
Insulin pumps have become very popular with American diabetics. These pumps replace the single-use needles most diabetics need in order to take on insulin. Instead, they are inserted for weeks at a time and allow a person to ‘dial in’ the amount of insulin they want to take on. For children and people with limited physical ability, this can make for a massive improvement in blood sugar control. Pumps have not taken off in nations other than the United States.
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