For Diabetics, the Power of Knowing

Issue 03-20-17   |   Reviewer:   Michael S. Raisinghani, Ph.D.


Diabetes, a chronic condition in almost 30 million Americans, is marked by a deficiency of insulin, a hormone that converts blood glucose into energy. If glucose climbs too high, it can damage organs such as the kidneys, hands, and feet, leading to amputations. If it dips too low, even at non-deadly levels, it can cause shakiness, confusion, headaches, and fatigue, even diabetic coma — or death.

Abbott Labs’ FreeStyle Libre is a waterproof button the size of a quarter that sits on the outside of the upper arm. It houses a tiny, needle-shaped sensor that rests just under the skin, continuously measuring glucose levels in the interstitial fluid that bathes cells. Diabetics using a new meter took readings more frequently — about sixteen times a day — and did better at lowering glucose levels. However, the repeated checks by diabetics are not always helpful, and some users have reported being overwhelmed by the data where they have access to seven different reports on their blood sugar, tracking readings and patterns over time.

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