What Is Continuous Glucose Monitoring?

Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) is a way to continuously track your blood sugar. It’s done using a device that has sensors put under your skin. It checks the blood sugar level in the fluid between your body cells. The sensors send readings wirelessly to a monitor, or even your cell phone, every few minutes, day and night. If you have type 1 diabetes, this data can help you spot trends in how you are managing your diabetes so you can make adjustments. It can also help you know if your blood sugar is on the rise or dropping. This can help you balance food, activity, and insulin. You’ll have better control over your diabetes. Some monitors have an alarm you can set if your blood sugar reaches a certain level.

Even children can use CGM. Blood sugar readings can be sent directly to a parent’s or caregiver’s monitor or phone. It can alert parents to a child’s dropping blood sugar during the night so they can help, for instance.

CGM does not replace the need to do finger sticks and use your standard blood sugar monitor. But with CGM, you may not need to do the finger sticks as often.

The sensor is usually put on the back of the upper arm. Or it may be put on the belly (abdomen) or back. In some cases, a CGM may be part of an insulin pump. The insulin pump can automatically adjust your insulin dose.

Why might I need CGM?

CGM is a good choice if you have type 1 diabetes and take insulin. It’s ideal for people who need to have tight blood sugar control to keep blood sugar from getting to high or too low. It’s also helpful for people who may not recognize symptoms of low blood sugar. CGM is generally not recommended for patients with type 2 diabetes, even if they are taking insulin (although some studies have shown benefits in some cases).

CGM can help you see trends in your diabetes management. For example, you may notice that your blood sugar is lower at certain times of the day or after certain activities. You can start to make better decisions about what to eat and how much activity you can safely do. You can also find out if you need to change your insulin dose.

Are there drawbacks to CGM?

CGM does not replace pricking your finger and testing a drop of blood with a standard glucose meter. You will need a standard monitor to check the CGM readings before making any changes. If you are getting your CGM results on your smartphone, be sure you can still get alerts about low blood sugars when your phone is in vibrate or on other settings.

CGM costs more than a standard monitor. Some insurance plans don’t cover the cost of a CGM.

CGM gives a lot of data. Some people may find it’s too much information. They may prefer a simpler approach. The various models of CGM machines can be quite different from each other. So, be sure the training you get is specific to your CGM machine,

Wearing a device day and night can be a problem for some. Some people may react to the adhesive used to hold the device on the skin.

All CGMs have parts that need to be replaced on a regular basis. You will need to replace the sensor every 3 to 7 days.

You may be asked to remove the sensor before getting any imaging tests such as X-rays or MRIs. If you need to remove the sensor, bring a new one with you to your appointment. Try to schedule your appointment when it's time to replace your sensor.

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