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Research shows that older diabetics struggle with high-tech blood glucose meters

Study shows older diabetics struggle with high-tech blood sugar monitors that the NHS has offered some 400,000 Britons with the disease

  • Continuous glucose meters keep track of a patient’s blood sugar level
  • The information is beamed from a skin sensor to the patient’s smartphone
  • An American study showed that elderly patients had difficulty using the high-tech gadgets

Older diabetics are struggling to use high-tech blood sugar monitors that the NHS is rolling out to revolutionize their care, a study claims.

Last year, 400,000 Britons with the disease were offered the devices, called continuous glucose monitors, which monitor blood sugar via a sensor in the arm.

The data is sent to an app on the patient’s phone, which can send them an alert if their blood sugar is too low or too high. The technology puts an end to fingerstick blood tests, which diabetics had to pass several times a day.

But researchers in the US have found that the digital devices can be a stumbling block for those over 65. During the study, three-quarters of the participants let their blood sugar drop unnoticed to a seriously low level.

The NHS distributed continuous glucose monitors to 400,000 diabetics last year that continuously test patients’ blood sugar levels and warn them if they are dangerously low or high

Traditionally, diabetics had to take a fingertip test several times a day to determine if their blood sugar levels were correct

Traditionally, diabetics had to take a fingertip test several times a day to determine if their blood sugar levels were correct

About 4.9 million Britons have diabetes, 90 percent of them with the form known as type 2, which is usually caused by excess body fat. The other major form of diabetes, called type 1, is genetic.

In both cases, patients lack insulin, a hormone that allows blood sugar from food to enter the body’s cells so it can be used for energy. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can lead to long-term complications, including eye problems, nerve damage, and possible limb loss, as well as heart disease. So diabetics should check their blood sugar regularly and administer insulin injections if they get too high, or eat if they get too low.

Continuous glucose meters are approved for all type 1 diabetics and type 2 patients with serious diabetes-related health problems. But scientists at the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis found that when 70 older people were given the gadgets for two weeks, they weren’t using them properly.

Dr. Michael Weiner, a professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine who led the trial, described the results as “deeply concerning.”

Professor Partha Kar, NHS England’s national specialist adviser on diabetes, says he was aware of the problem in the UK.

‘Teaching older people how to use a blood glucose meter is very different from teaching a younger person a lesson. But there are things we can do. Patients can choose to share their data with their consultant so that they can keep an eye on it from a distance.

‘With some types of monitors you can give the patient a separate digital device and tell him to always have it with him. This seems to work better.’

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