From kids to adults, it is common for patients to be squeamish around needles. While this is fine for the average patient who’s unlikely to encounter them beyond their yearly flu shot, for patients with diabetes, needles are a daily occurrence. Testing blood sugar requires a painful finger prick that many patients find so unpleasant that they may outright avoid this essential monitoring. However, the FDA recently approved new tech for testing blood sugar that will significantly ease the process for patients.
Abbott Laboratories, a global health care company based in Illinois, unveiled the FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System, a new blood sugar monitor that doesn’t require patients to endure the multiple painful finger pricks required throughout the day. Instead, Abbott’s system requires just a single prick at the back of the arm which inserts a sensor beneath the skin. Once in place, patients merely wave a separate device reader over the small sensor and promptly receive data on their blood sugar levels. Specifically, the FreeStyle Libre monitors both the current level of blood sugar as well as changes to those levels across the preceding eight hours.
Given that in America roughly 30 million people suffer from one of the two types of diabetes, any tech that makes blood sugar reading more convenient is a worthwhile advancement. Many patients neglect or fail to perform blood sugar monitoring correctly, which can result in everything from strokes, blindness, organ failure, heart attacks, and limb amputation if allowed to get too high. Low blood sugar is also dangerous, as it can lead to disorientation, seizures, and in extreme cases, long-term comas.
While Abbott’s blood sugar monitor is a step up from the painful and unwieldy devices of the past, it’s worth noting that the Libre isn’t a one-and-done system. The sensor only lasts 10 days, so patients will have to insert a new one roughly three times a month.
Still, the tech is far and away better than enduring upwards of a hundred finger pricks throughout the course of month by monitoring blood sugar the traditional way. Furthermore, the system helps overcome the issues that often lead to inaccurate readings. The FDA has approved the device for adult patients with either Type 1 or 2 diabetes and it should hit local pharmacy shelves within the next few months, though Abbott has not yet revealed the retail cost of the device reader unit or the necessary replacement sensors.