By Dr Larry Distiller Specialist Physician / Endocrinologist, CDE Houghton, Johannesburg
The availability of a ‘Flash’ blood glucose monitoring system in South Africa has launched a new and exciting chapter in the field of home glucose monitoring for diabetes. This hi-tech system, first introduced in Europe, has revolutionised the way people with type 1 diabetes manage their glucose levels and has provided an unparalleled depth of data, so necessary in the management of diabetes. The system consists of a small disposable sensor unit, around the size of a R5 coin, and a handheld reader. The sensor disc bears a flexible, hair like filament, which is inserted 5 mm under the skin – measurements of glucose in the interstitial fluid (or ‘tissue fluid’ – a solution that bathes and surrounds the cells of our bodies) begin one hour after insertion and continue every five minutes for the 14-day life of the sensor. Interstitial fluid glucose is an indirect or ‘proxy’ measure of blood glucose and is related to the latter in a predictable fashion. Since the device is factory calibrated, it does not require calibration to blood glucose via finger-prick.
The sensor is stuck to the skin on the back of the upper arm, where it will remain attached for its lifespan. It requires no more than a quick swipe of the reader over the sensor to provide a reading of the glucose level. The ability to obtain a glucose reading with a quick, painless scan, has ushered in a new era of bloodless, simple and calibration-free visualisation of glycaemic control.
Traditional testing using blood from a fingertip is recommended between 1 and 8 times per day, depending on many factors. In comparison, the new Flash technology allows users to scan up as many times as they wish. Research has found that those who scanned the most had the best control of glucose content.
This unique technology thus effectively can replace blood glucose meters. While Flash Glucose Monitoring is not the same as Continuous Glucose Monitoring, it has many of the same benefits. Since it provides a measure of blood glucose in an ongoing manner, each ‘flashed’ glucose result not only shows the current glucose level, but also an arrow that indicates whether the glucose level is stable, going up or going down. By allowing the patient to observe direction of the trend, it provides more information on which to base decisions to treat or to prevent hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia. This is something traditional finger pricking cannot do, since a finger prick provides only a single reading at a set point in time. Over time, and once the dots are connected, many more data points help to build a clearer understanding of the overall picture.
In addition to being always available and providing immediate personal monitoring, the reader data can be downloaded and analysed using specific software. This produces detailed and informative visual outputs on daily glycaemic trends and variability and highlights statistical risks of hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia according to time of day.
In time, patients will also be able to scan the sensor using their cell phone.
While with the use of this device it is virtually never necessary to do a finger-prick to determine the blood glucose, there may be occasions when the patient wants to confirm a flash result. This is particularly when blood glucose is dropping rapidly, disrupting the usually predictable relationship between interstitial fluid glucose and blood glucose – in this case, the flash reader has the ability to be used as a traditional finger-prick meter with a place to insert a strip for regular blood glucose testing.
Local experience with Flash technology has been overwhelmingly positive so far. Patients report that it has allowed them to test far more often, more rapidly and without the inconvenience of a finger-prick. They also report a resultant improvement in glucose control with less hypoglycaemia, and, perhaps even more importantly, an improved quality of life.
The Flash reader costs R990 (single purchase) and each sensor (14-day lifespan) costs R990 (All prices VAT inclusive). For more information around new this technology, speak to your CDE doctor or educator or phone 011 712-6055.
Please do not hesitate to contact us further;
Physical address: 81 Central Street, Houghton, 2198
Johannesburg, South Africa
Telephone: 011 712 6000
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