Study shows older diabetics struggle with high-tech blood glucose meters

Study shows older diabetics are struggling with high-tech blood sugar trackers, which the NHS has offered to around 400,000 Britons with the disease

  • Continuous glucose monitors track a patient’s blood glucose levels
  • The information is beamed from a skin sensor to the patient’s smartphone
  • A US study found that older patients had trouble using the high-tech devices

Older diabetics are struggling to use high-tech blood sugar trackers the NHS is launching in a bid to revolutionize their care, according to a study.

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

The data is sent to an app on the patient’s phone, which can alert them when their blood sugar is too low or too high. The technology eliminates the need for fingerprint blood tests that diabetics had to undergo multiple times a day.

However, researchers in the US have found that digital devices can be a stumbling block for people over 65. During the study, three quarters of the participants allowed their blood sugar to drop to seriously low levels without realizing it.

The NHS gave continuous glucose monitors to 400,000 diabetics last year, continuously testing the patient’s blood sugar levels and alerting them when they are dangerously low or high

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

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

About 4.9 million Britons have diabetes, 90 percent of them from the so-called type 2 form, which is typically caused by excess body fat. The other main form of diabetes, called type 1, is genetic.

In both cases, patients lack sufficient insulin, a hormone that moves blood sugar from food into 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 potential loss of limbs, and heart disease. Therefore, diabetics need to monitor their blood sugar levels regularly and give insulin shots when they get too high or eat when they’re too low.

Continuous blood glucose monitors are approved for all type 1 diabetics and type 2 patients with serious diabetes-related health problems. However, scientists at the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis found that 70 elderly people who received the devices for two weeks did not use them properly.

dr Michael Weiner, a professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine who led the study, described the results as “extremely worrying.”

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

“Teaching older people how to use a blood glucose meter is very different from teaching young people. But there are things we can do. Patients can share their data with their advisor so they can keep an eye on them remotely.

“With some types of monitors, you can give the patient a separate digital device and tell them to keep it with them at all times. That seems to work better.”