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A New Way to Check Your Glucose Levels

August 26, 2020

A new device may be entering the market soon. The device called SugarBEAT may help to manage blood glucose levels in diabetic patients.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a severe disease characterized by high blood glucose levels for an extended time. Glucose is a very important sugar; it is used by the human body as the main source of energy to drive biological processes. We can get glucose from foods that are filled with high amounts of carbohydrates. When blood glucose levels get too high, a hormone called insulin is released from the pancreas. Insulin reduces blood glucose levels by converting glucose into other useful products. Diabetes happens when the body is deficient in insulin and so the blood glucose levels are not controlled properly.

The prevalence of diabetes is quite high, approximately 463 million adults around the world had diabetes in 2019 and 90% of these were individuals with type 2 diabetes according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), and these numbers are expected to substantially rise in the coming years. Apart from having a high prevalence, diabetes is also one of the top causes of death. In 2019, it was estimated that 4.2 million adults died due to diabetes or its associated complications, making diabetes one of the biggest killers around the world.

The symptoms of diabetes are:

  • Increased hunger
  • Enhanced thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight loss
  • Blurry vision
  • Wounds that take longer to heal

Diabetes can be divided into 4 groups: gestational diabetes, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and other rare types. Prediabetes is when your blood glucose levels are way higher than the normal levels but are not in the diabetes range just yet. Individuals with prediabetes are very likely to develop diabetes if they do not improve their lifestyle.

Type 1 diabetes is more common in children; it happens when there is an immune attack on the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin, causing these insulin-producing cells to become damaged. This leads to an insulin deficiency and so there isn’t enough insulin to get rid of the glucose in the blood and so the blood glucose levels continually rise.

Type 2 diabetes is more common in adults and usually happens in obese people. Type 2 diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance. This means that the body is no longer sensitive to insulin anymore and so glucose accumulates in the blood. According to researchers, type 2 diabetes can be prevented by reducing weight, exercising, and having a nutritional diet.

During pregnancy, some women may experience raised blood glucose levels, this condition is called gestational diabetes and it only happens in pregnant women. Gestational diabetes is characterized by insulin resistance; this is because pregnancy hormones disrupt insulin signaling. After delivering the baby, gestational diabetes usually improves or the condition might end completely.

There are also rare types of diabetes; one is called type 3c diabetes. Type 3c diabetes arises when individuals have a health condition that damages the pancreas like pancreatic cancer or pancreatitis. This causes the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas to become damaged resulting in type 3c diabetes.

What Increases Your Risk of Diabetes?

There are many factors that can increase your risk of developing diabetes. Here are some of them:

  • Age – The risk of diabetes increases with age. However, there are differences in ages due to ethnicity. 
  • Ethnicity – Ethnic groups such as South Asians or Black Africans are 2-4 times more likely to develop diabetes.
  • Blood Pressure – Individuals with high blood pressure are more susceptible.
  • Weight - Obese patients are at an increased risk.
  • Family history – If someone in your family (siblings, parents, etc.) has diabetes, you are more likely to get diabetes too.

How is Diabetes Diagnosed?

As we already know, diabetes is characterized by high glucose levels. So clinicians base their diagnosis on the high levels of glucose in your blood. There are different ways that the blood glucose levels can be tested; there is fasting blood glucose, glycated hemoglobin, the glucose tolerance test, and more.

For the random glucose blood test, the blood glucose levels are measured at any time during the day. For this test, you do not need to fast or have a sugary drink prior to the test.

The fasting glucose blood test is when the patient has a blood test after fasting for 8 to 10 hours. This helps to determine how well the body manages the blood glucose levels without food. High glucose levels after fasting for several hours can be indicative of diabetes because the body is not able to efficiently remove glucose from the blood for a prolonged period.

There is also the glycated hemoglobin test. Individuals with diabetes have high levels of glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) this is because the excess sugar clings onto the red blood cells. This test is able to show the patient’s glucose control for the last few months, as the red blood cells can survive for approximately 2-3 months.   

In the glucose tolerance test, the patient fasts 8 to 10 hours and then a fasting blood test is taken. Then the patient is given a sugary drink containing 75g glucose and then blood samples are taken again after 2 hours to determine the body’s ability to remove glucose from the blood.

Non-diabetic patients will have

  • Fasting blood glucose levels usually less than 6.1mmol/L
  • Two-hour glucose levels are less than 7.8mmol/L
  • Random glucose levels are less than 11.1mmol/L.
  • HbA1c is less than 42mmol/mol.

Clinicians will diagnose you with diabetes if your

  • Fasting blood glucose levels are more than 7 mmol/L
  • The two-hour glucose levels are more than 11.1mmol/L
  • Random glucose levels are in excess of 11.1mmol/L
  • HbA1c is in excess of 48mmol/mol

How is Diabetes Treated?

Diabetes is mainly treated by controlling blood glucose levels. Diabetes patients have to keep track of their blood glucose levels at home every day to make sure it is within the normal range.

Type 2 diabetes can be managed with diet, weight loss, diabetes medications, and exercise. Whilst these things may have some benefits to individuals with type 1 diabetes, diabetes medications are mainly used to manage type 1 diabetes.   

Individuals with diabetes should try to incorporate a healthy diet that is filled with nutritional foods and low in the “bad fats” into their routines. High fiber foods, fish, and carbs that have a low glycemic index should be included in the eating plan. Some starchy foods like rice, white bread, potatoes, etc. will increase blood glucose levels rapidly because they have a high glycemic index. This is not useful when you are trying to control your blood sugar levels. Alternatively, to control your blood glucose levels, you could try starchy foods with a lower glycemic index like wholegrain bread, brown rice, and much more. A detailed healthy-eating plan for people with diabetes can be found at the Mayo Clinic.  

Individuals with type 2 diabetes may benefit from losing weight, as obesity is a high-risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. In a study, obese individuals were 80 times more likely to have type 2 diabetes than those with a healthier BMI. Therefore, losing weight could help to manage your diabetes.  

Exercise is very beneficial for diabetes patients too; it can help insulin be used more efficiently, can help to lower blood pressure, and reduces the build-up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels, and for type 2 diabetes patients, exercise can help to improve the HbA1c levels. Diabetes patients can stay active by doing household chores, gardening, walking, cycling, swimming, and much more. 

Diabetes patients are often treated with medications that contain insulin or compounds that induce insulin production so that blood glucose levels can be managed within the normal threshold. Type 1 diabetes patients are usually treated with insulin using either insulin injections or an insulin pump. Type 2 diabetes patients are often given a drug called metformin as the first-line treatment to manage their blood sugar levels. However, there are many other medications used to manage type 2 diabetes too, there are sulfonylureas that can activate the pancreas to make more insulin or medicines like acarbose that reduce the absorption of glucose in the gut. Alternatively, you may even be given weight loss medication to treat your diabetes.

Why Is It So Important to Keep Track of Your Glucose Levels?

In some cases, diabetes can’t be effectively controlled and so the blood glucose levels will be all over the place, blood glucose levels that are extremely high or low are lethal and associated with severe complications.

Hypoglycemia is when you have really low blood glucose levels that are around 3.0 mmol/L, if your blood glucose levels are around 3.0 mmol/L, you need immediate help.  If you have untreated hypoglycemia, you may experience loss of consciousness, seizures, or death. On the flip side, hyperglycemia is when you have really high blood glucose levels around 22.2 mmol/L, hyperglycemia is dangerous because it can induce a diabetic coma or even result in death.

The other complications of diabetes can include a heart attack, stroke, loss of eyesight, kidney failure, and amputation of the lower limbs. Therefore, it is vital to manage your diabetes as there are severe complications of not doing so. All of these complications sound very scary but do not worry; small lifestyle changes and diabetes medications can make a big difference to your overall wellbeing and health. Plus there are many devices that are currently under development that may help to manage your diabetes in the future.

The SugarBEAT device

Nemaura Medical has developed a novel device that can be used to manage diabetes. The device goes by the name of “sugarBEAT”; it is a non-invasive adhesive patch that can be attached to your arm. The patch measures your glucose levels every five minutes throughout the day, then this information is sent to the BEATdiabetes phone app, so diabetes patients can easily track their glucose levels throughout the day. Furthermore, important information about lifestyle factors such as exercise levels, mood, diabetes drugs being used, and dietary intake can be added into the phone app. This is very useful as it can help to discover trends that impact your glucose levels. The sugarBEAT will equip you with the knowledge to improve your glucose levels and have better control over your diabetes.

The SugarBEAT device has already gotten CE approval; Nemaura Medical is currently awaiting FDA approval. Nemaura Medical expects that the sugarBEAT device will be available across the United Kingdom and Ireland soon.

References

https://www.diabetes.org.uk

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