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Diabetic Supplies: Lancets, Blood Glucose Monitors and Insulin Pumps

Once you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes, you should arm yourself with a variety of diabetes tools to help achieve and maintain normal blood sugar levels. Diabetic supplies range from the mundane to the latest technological marvels. Whether you prefer simple, no-frills care or choose tools with all the bells and whistles, using diabetic supplies that are convenient and reliable is important. Without the basics, you won't have enough information to make decisions relevant to your care.

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Blood Glucose Monitors
A good blood glucose monitor is one of the most important essentials to self-management of diabetes. Most rely on drawing blood to test so it is important to find the best system for less painful testing and ease of use. Most monitors use test strips. Each strip is consumed by a single use, so, even though the strips don't need a prescription, they are functionally like a medication, requiring a regular visit to the pharmacy to resupply. Most medical insurance organizations, including Medicare, cover the expense of diabetes products and supplies.

Knowing your current blood sugar reading will allow you to make good choices when caring for yourself. If your reading is high, you may choose to delay eating or take additional insulin. On the other hand, if you're low, you'll have an idea of how much carbohydrate to eat to bring your blood sugar level back to normal.

Non-Invasive Glucose Monitors
Researchers are developing and perfecting technology that will give accurate blood sugar readings without requiring a droplet of blood. One such monitor currently available is the Glucowatch® by Cygnus. A watch-like device is worn on the wrist and reads blood sugar values every twenty minutes.

Lancing Devices and Lancets
The lancing devices used to poke your finger to obtain a drop of blood for your blood glucose monitor are included with the monitor purchase. The lancet is the small sharp metal piece that actually pokes the finger. Lancets come in a variety of forms, some of which are interchangeable among lancing devices.

The gauge of the lancet needle may be your most important consideration. The lancet in your finger-poke device should be changed frequently to avoid contamination or unnecessary damage to your fingertip.

Insulin Delivery
Injections with a syringe are quick, straightforward, and relatively inexpensive.Now that you've tested your blood sugar, it's time to deliver the appropriate amount of insulin. Is it better to use a syringe, an insulin pen or an insulin pump? Traditional injections with a syringe are quick, straightforward, and relatively inexpensive.

Insulin Jet Injectors: An insulin jet injector, which uses pressure rather than a needle, may be a good option for someone strongly opposed to syringes. Some claim that a jet injector is less painful than a needle.

Insulin Pens: An insulin pen works essentially the same as a syringe, but has pre-filled insulin cartridges. It looks similar to a fountain pen and is more inconspicuous than a vial and syringe or jet injector. This means that it's relatively easy to administer an injection in a public place without drawing attention. The insulin pen may also be more user-friendly than a syringe for the vision impaired.

Insulin Pumps: Insulin pumps are among the latest technology available for insulin delivery. A small infusion set is inserted into the skin and attached to the pump by a long, thin tube. The insulin pump is programmed for the individual and delivers minute amounts of basal insulin on an on-going basis.

With the push of a few buttons, additional insulin is delivered on demand to cover food or high blood sugar levels. While more complex than multiple daily injections, many pump wearers (adults and children) have become strong advocates of this method of insulin delivery.

Syringes a Thing of the Past?
In the US, prescription drugs must gain approval from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) before they are available for prescription. This is a process involving several phases of clinical trials to ascertain their effectiveness and safety. While we know that standard insulin taken orally is not feasible because it doesn't survive digestion, researchers continue to look for ways that diabetics can avoid insulin injection.

Insulin absorption through the lungs is quite effective.Inhaled Insulin: Scientists have discovered that insulin absorption through the lungs is quite effective. So inhaled versions are undergoing testing for human consumption since they've been shown to have positive effects on mice in a laboratory setting.

Available in a powder or spray, inhaled insulin enters the bloodstream directly from the lungs and works the same way as the injected form.

Oral Insulin: Meanwhile, Coremed, Inc., a US-based pharmaceutical company has developed a modified form of oral insulin called Intesulin™. The results of animal studies on Intestulin have been promising.

Insulin Patch: In the US, SpectRx, Inc. has in development a "pumpless patch". Because insulin is not readily absorbed through the skin, possible systems to be combined with the insulin patch include ultrasound and electrical current.

Resources

Beaser, R.S., & Hill, J. V. The Joslin Guide to Diabetes: A Program for Managing Your Treatment. New York, Simon & Schuster, 1995.

Cygnus, Inc. (2001, July). GlucoWatch® Biographer: Patient Information.
   
   
 
 
 
 
 
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Last modified 18 September 2006
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