Understanding CGMs and Their Role in Diabetes Treatment


For many patients, continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems provide added information and support for maintaining control over diabetes symptoms and preventing major fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Understanding these advanced systems can provide patients with valuable insight into the monitoring process and may help them to behave proactively in participating in their own treatment plan.


What is a CGM?
A continuous glucose monitor, or CGM, is a portable metering system that performs testing to determine glucose levels in the bloodstream at regular intervals throughout the day and night. Consisting of three basic parts, the CGM is worn by the patient for up to a week at a time and stores ongoing readings for download at home or by trained medical personnel. The three primary parts of the CGM include the following:

• Sensor – This extremely thin needle is inserted under the skin and is responsible for taking regular readings of blood sugar levels. Patients usually wear the sensor in a discreet location under clothing where it is unlikely to be bumped or scraped during normal activities.

• Transmitter – This important element of the CGM covers the sensor and protects it against damage. It also sends data signals remotely to the receiver regarding the patient’s ongoing blood sugar readings as gathered by the sensor device. Sensor-transmitter combinations are typically very small and lightweight for ease of use.

• Receiver – The electronic portion of the CGM, this component is separate from the other two and can be carried in a purse or case. This technologically advanced device receives signals from the transmitter and decodes the blood sugar readings collected by the sensor. Receivers typically incorporate a data storage component and a digital readout; advanced systems may also feature an audible alarm to warn patients of extremely high or low blood sugar readings.

These three components make up the typical CGM configuration. Most CGM systems can be worn safely for approximately one week and take readings at regular intervals of five minutes apart. Patients can shower, swim and work out while wearing the sensor and transmitter, but the receiver must be kept dry to ensure proper function. Fingerstick testing is still required to calibrate CGM systems; however, the CGM provides much more frequent and ongoing testing than fingerstick methods can supply.

Physicians and health care professionals can use the added information provided by CGM systems to adjust treatment plans, insulin dosages and diet recommendations for their patients. By adjusting daily activities and food intake to prevent major fluctuations in blood sugar levels, diabetes patients can often achieve improved control over their condition. These advanced monitoring systems allow a much greater degree of insight for medical personnel and can provide patients with the information they need to manage their diabetes symptoms more effectively. 

One of Mary’s favorite things to write about is health. For more information regarding diabetes, please visit http://dexcom.com/

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