NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Continuous glucose monitors, or CGMs, have been around for some years.
The devices were bulky to wear, had to be calibrated often and had limited ability to track and report blood sugars, reports CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez.
Now a new generation CGM is so good, many doctors say every diabetic should be using it.
Keeping blood sugar within a narrow range is critical to avoid the long term complications of diabetes: blindness, kidney damage, heart attacks, strokes and amputations.
For years that meant finger sticks to check blood sugar, a dozen or more times a day.
"You've got to pull out a whole bunch of stuff and the fingersticks hurt, they hurt more than injections, you know, for people," said Dr. Carol Levy of the Mount Sinai Diabetes Center.
Even worse than the pain and inconvenience is that finger sticks only give a snapshot of blood sugar at that instant in time.
"I never knew if it was going up or down or if it was staying stable," said diabetic patient Lance Bergstein.
Bergstein is a serious amateur race car driver who knows that high blood sugar means long-term complications, but low blood sugar on the track could be lethal because of impaired brain function.
This is the point where continuous glucose monitors come in. The newest version, called the Dexcom G6, is a quantum leap in CGM technology. It's a tiny needle that stays under a patients' skin for about a week, sending signals about your blood sugar.
"These devices have really been life changing for people," said Levy. "It's made a huge difference both in a reduction of high blood sugars and in the reduction of low blood sugars, these devices make dramatic differences."
The G6 CGM constantly uploads blood sugar readings to a smartphone, and from there to anyone a person decides should know the wearer's levels. Also important is the ability to set alarms for too high or low sugar levels.
"It's the loss of fear of going to sleep at night worrying whether your blood sugar will be too high or too low," said Levy. "You're gonna get an alarm, you don't have to wake up."
Another major plus is the applicator that attaches the G6.
"The insertion of it is a night and day difference," said Bergstein. "They've came out with a one button applicator that is completely painless and there's no calibration involved."
Gomez notes there is another new CGM called the Libre, but patients have to wave a wand over it to get the readings instead of automatic uploads to a phone. Patients can't set hi-low alarms with it.
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