Mobile Device Helps Diabetics Track Sugar Levels

For a parent, tracking a diabetic child’s constantly fluctuating glucose levels can be a tedious, nerve-racking experience.

A new app on mobile devices helps both the child and parent monitor glucose levels, even when apart from each other.

Dexcom G5 Mobile is a continuous glucose monitoring system that transmits blood sugar levels from a transmitter worn on the body to smart devices. A Dexcom Share feature allows up to five people to follow the diabetic patient’s glucose data. The app shows users not only the glucose number, but also what direction it’s heading and how quickly it may be changing.

“It updates your interstitial glucose [the glucose level of the fluid that surrounds your cells] every five minutes,” says Rachel Rocha, ProMedica Pharmacy. “It also shows you the speed and direction of where your sugar is headed. It will either give you one arrow up, down or to the side, which means your blood sugar is headed up, down or is stable. Or it could show two arrows up or two arrows down, which means it’s rapidly going up or down. That’s the biggest benefit of continuous glucose monitoring — you know where you’re headed and how quickly you’re going.”

5-year-old Lillie with her Dexcom G5 Mobile.

A child that may not be able to communicate verbally how they’re feeling in terms of their blood sugar levels can alert their parent through the Dexcom system. The parent can be alerted when the number reaches a certain point, notifying them to contact the school or caretaker to take action.

In order to use the system, the child must carry a smartphone or Dexcom receiver with them at all times. To be properly calibrated to the user’s body, blood sugar levels still have to be checked with a fingerstick twice a day, at a minimum.

“It definitely can make the child or parent have peace of mind,” Rocha says. “It probably helps bringing them back to living a normal lifestyle without diabetes, because you have such knowledge at your fingertips. You know if you’re about to go play a soccer game, my blood sugar isn’t dropping really quickly. Or if it is, I should eat a snack right before I go out.”

Angela Morgan and her five-year-old daughter, Lillie, began using Dexcom 5 Mobile this fall. Both mother and daughter were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as children and use the app to measure glucose levels.

Although Angela’s insurance provider didn’t initially want to cover Dexcom for Lillie because it hadn’t been tested on children under 8 years old, they agreed after the child went into diabetic ketoacidosis and spent a night in a pediatric intensive care unit during a trip with her grandparents.

“After that, I really pushed for Dexcom,” Angela says. “We would have been able to head that off had we known that her blood sugars were rising at a pretty fast rate.”

Life has improved drastically at the Morgan household since that time, Angela says. Previously, she had been waking up several times a night to check Lillie’s glucose.

“I think I slept through the night for the first time since January, knowing that it’s going to alarm me if she gets too high or too low,” she says. Because there is no nurse or medical staff at Lillie’s school, using the Dexcom Share feature brings Angela extra peace of mind throughout the day.

“I probably get on the app 50 times a day to see where she’s at,” Angela says. “A couple of times, I noticed she was going down pretty fast so I’d call the school and say, ‘Get her down to the office. She’s going to need some juice pretty soon.’”

If Lillie’s numbers get too high or low, Angela will usually still opt to use a fingerstick to get blood sugar results instead of interstitial glucose, but using the app has cut down the daily finger pokes from upwards of 12 to four.

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