Blood sugar testing goes wireless & painless for diabetes patients

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In Europe, the medical company Abbott has just released its FreeStyle Libre system, which may usher in a revolution in diabetes care. The Libre system uses an advanced, coin-size sensor that is worn on the arm for two weeks at a time. According to the instructions, a tiny “filament is inserted just under the skin and held in place with a small adhesive pad”.

It comes with a hand-held scanner which looks like a largish smartphone. Swiping the scanner over the sensor instantly measures your sugar, displaying the result in “less than one second.”

Speaking at the European launch in Vienna, Jared Watkin, a technology vice-president at Abbott, also demonstrated that you can even scan the sensor “through your clothes.” You don’t even need to calibrate the system with a test drop of blood.

Since the technology is digital, the sensor is always on – 24/7 – always measuring sugar. Known as continuous glucose measurement (CGM), this is usually done at the research level, where precise recordings are required.

But with this new sensor, such precision goes retail: Regular patients can benefit from this constant sugar surveillance. In fact, the measurements are so detailed that the graphs look like fluctuating, moment-to-moment stock-market prices. This is known as Ambulatory Glucose Profiling (AGP). What’s more, patients can be forewarned if their levels go too low or high; and they can view their trendlines over the last hour, day, week or even months.

Notably, the Libre device will even generate the single key number that doctors are after – the three-month sugar, known as the hemoglobin A1c. It is this number, how your sugar has done over the past three months, that doctors track to predict the complications of diabetes, which include eye, heart, kidney and nerve disease.

The FreeStyle Libre System will be available in France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom in the coming weeks and will be available for purchase online through a website in each market.

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