Modern-day meds: Diabetes technology adapts for 21st century lifestyle
By Annie Alleman For Sun-Times Media
Handy Device: Modern insulin pumps include touch screens and more closely resemble mobile phones than a piece of medical equipment. | Supplied photo
Diagnosed Diabetes Prevalence
In Kane County:
2004: 5.4 percent
2010: 8.0 percent
In DuPage County:
2004: 6.1 percent
2010: 7.6 percent
In Kendall County:
2004: 5.6 percent
2010: 6.6 percent
In Will County:
2004: 5.7 percent
2010: 9.6 percent
Centers for Disease Control
From touch screens to glucose sensors, there are several new and user-friendly ways for people to manage diabetes.
“There are all kinds of innovations,” said Betty Wickman, a diabetes educator at the Edward Diabetes Center at Edward Hospital in Naperville.
One of the newest and slickest pieces of technology is the T-Slim Insulin Pump, a small, sleek device. In the simplest terms, insulin pumps take the place of a pancreas, she said. It delivers insulin 24 hours a day based on what the patient eats.
“They have a new pump that looks more like an iPhone. It has a touch screen, which a lot of people like better. Young people really like it, because they are more familiar with that technology. It has a sleeker look to the whole thing, and more intuitive for people who are used to iPhones. For people who really don’t want people to know they’re wearing an insulin pump, it blends in more,” she said.
Another new technology is a disposable insulin delivery device called a V-Go that’s between a pump and an insulin pen.
“It gives you all the wonderful features of a pump without someone having to go through lots of education. It’s a middle step between injection therapy and pump therapy,” she said. “It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles and high technology of an insulin pump, but it’s a wonderful tool for a lot of people who just want to be able to give themselves insulin at the touch of a button. That’s another relatively new piece of technology.”
Another device that she believes will be the wave of the future is a glucose sensor, called Continuous Glucose Monitoring. It can be inserted under the skin and measures a patient’s glucose level 24 hours a day for seven days. A handheld receiver monitors blood sugar levels and patterns.
“It gives you an idea of how what you eat and the medications you take affect your blood sugar,” she said. “That’s how we can fine-tune people and see if they need different medications and things like that. The (data) download shows every day, according to time of day, what their blood sugar was doing. It’s incredible technology. Some people call it GPS for the blood sugar. It’s really helpful for people with Type 1.”
Something she only recently learned about herself is a new pump that works with glucose monitoring.
“What happens is if you are wearing a glucose sensor with this pump and your blood sugar drops below what you’ve set the lowest threshold at, it will beep. If you don’t respond to that, it will turn the pump off for an hour or two, allowing someone to get their blood sugar back up,” she said. “That’s pretty much the first pump in the United States that’s doing that sort of thing. That will be a wonderful tool for people with diabetes who don’t know they’re going low. When you have low blood sugar, that can be terribly dangerous. This can help alleviate the problems that go along with low blood sugar.”