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Monitoring blood glucose without needles

Abbott Laboratories’ FreeStyle Libre Flash system, a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system, consists of a coin-sized glucose arm sensor and a handheld reader that provides the last eight hours of glucose history. 

CGM is wearable technology that makes it easier to track one’s blood glucose (also known as blood sugar) levels over time. To obtain a glucose reading, the user scans the reader over the sensor — a painless one-second procedure that doesn’t need finger pricks. The system also comes with software that generates reports and analyzes the user’s glucose data.   

Gary S. Valenciano, a 58-year-old singer, songwriter, and music producer who has been living with diabetes since he was 14, has seen how innovations in glucose monitoring such as these have eased the “balancing act” of diabetes management.  

“Diabetes can be the most deceiving of all illnesses, because sometimes you think you’re okay, but then things can be going on inside of you, if you don’t take care of yourself the way you should,” said Mr. Valenciano, at a Sept. 14 event organized by the multinational medical devices and healthcare company.  

When Mr. Valenciano started monitoring his blood glucose four decades ago, it involved a test tube, a tablet, and a urine sample.   

“I felt like a chemist. … I would have to gather a few drops of [urine] to a dropper, and then determine how high or low my sugar was, depending on how the tablet inside would respond,” he said. “It was more or less a guessing game to see where I was.”   

When finger stick checks became available, the concern then became remembering to bring the required gadgets, looking for a private place to prick one’s finger, and waiting 45 seconds to get the results.  

“The finger stick method measures blood sugar at that point in time,” said Dr. Michael L. Villa, immediate past president of the Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism. “You need to measure it many times in one day.”  

He noted that a fear of needles made some patients less willing to monitor their blood sugar levels.  

CGM, meanwhile, removes the need for multiple finger pricks and provides more data. “I am very happy with this new development in glucose monitoring, as it gives enough information for the patient to act on,” Dr. Villa said. “Some people claim they’re asymptomatic, but this gives me information throughout the day.”  

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the body’s blood glucose is too high. High blood sugar can lead to problems such as heart disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage.  

Philippine Statistics Authority data show that deaths due to diabetes mellitus ranked fourth in 2020 at 37,265, after heart diseases (99,680), cancer (62,289), and cerebrovascular diseases (59,736). This is an increase of 7.8% from the 2019 tally.  

The Shining Light Foundation, established by Mr. Valenciano and his wife, Angeli P. Valenciano, provides medical assistance to Filipino diabetics. 

“Through donations and diabetes education, I want to inspire more Filipinos living with diabetes that it is possible to remove the mystery behind the condition,” he said. “[You can] live better through proper diabetes management that’s powered by accurate and real-time data.” — Patricia B. Mirasol 

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