No doubt, spread of diabetes reached an epidemic proportion, with nearly 10% of the adult population suffering from this chronic disease. Better medicine means longer survivor period in this population and translates to self-care fatigue, where pricking the finger eight times a day is no longer a viable alternative.

Advances in technology opened a new field of possibilities in the management of diabetes. With the help of apps, IT devices, patients can manage their condition, so they can live a better life with a better understanding of how their body reacts and processes sugar during the different type of activities.

Free apps for a better life

A lot of free mobile apps provide information, support for the patient, deliver coaching advice for this new lifestyle. For example, behind mySugr Coaching app is the well-known diabetes educator and author Gary Scheiner and his team, who will answer all your questions. The expert team welcomes all inquiries from newly diagnosed patients or from people living with diabetes for years and need a boost to improve their lifestyle. If you are more into tech, the app paired with a compatible device automatically captures the blood glucose history, making it easy for coaches to review your data.

Fooducate educates users on nutrition and helps to eliminate unhealthy foods. Just scan nutrition labels and you’ll see ingredients as well as the health grade assigned to different foods. Or Glucosio is an app for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It monitors important metrics such as weight, hemoglobin A1c, ketones, cholesterol, blood pressure, and more. The app also includes glucose target tools and an HbA1c conversion calculator. The best diabetes apps of 2018 are listed on this website, some of them are free, others offer in-app-purchase or a subscription.

Self-help apps, though, may have their limits unless they also link the patient with a professional health team or if they have „regional” versions to reflect various preferences and options of people living in various parts of the globe. They also often tend to focus one particular element of daily routines or logging and analyzing data input – either monitoring your lab data, nutrition elements/weight control or exercise, being somewhat weaker in other aspects or limiting integration to one particular device (like one type of glucose meter).

These apps are all much smarter and personalized than books or manual data logging, while new solutions emerge day by day, integrating important functions previous versions lacked – either to be „the ultimate” solution or to serve specific groups within the global diabetes community. The new versions also may provide a better integration with new wearable devices for health, to provide smart data monitoring of vital signs.

Painless glucose level monitoring

Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGM) are not available to everyone due to their price, but advances in technology will eventually bring their costs down. A CGM is essentially a sensor that patients place on their body. This sensor continuously measures blood sugar levels, many readings are possible over the 14 days without ever pricking a finger. The sensor is not connected directly to the bloodstream but instead measures interstitial fluid, and then uses an algorithm to predict the blood sugar level. The acquired data shows how levels are changing through the day. CGM can be used by patients using insulin pumps or multiple daily injections.

Henrik Berggren is a loud advocate of CMG’s, publishing a lot of blog post about his experience with the device. He even went further and modified his own sensor, and now it transmits data every 5 minutes, thus making monitoring continuous.

Frequent data allowed him to measure sugar levels when it was previously impossible, during work or sleep. And more frequent data means is easier for him to connect highs and low to specific actions like a meal or workout. For example, using CGM he noticed, that playing basketball raised his sugar significantly, so he developed strategies to mitigate some of its effects.

He processed the data transmitted by CGM with the help of a free app, Spike, which alerts patient of high and low glucose values, displays blood sugar data as a graph over the last 24 hours in 5-minute intervals (used in treatment decisions). The app also allows the input of personal insulin and carb intake. Spike is not an authorized app, but the product of a hacker ecosystem that exists around diabetes management tools.

Smart pens and needles

Approving and testing these IT devices, apps take a lot of energy and time, so no wonder, that the so-called bio-hackers took matters into their own hands by experimenting on themselves. We understand, that waiting is not an alternative for someone living with diabetes, but we recommend a slow and careful approach, and prudent (self)testing for all non-approved apps and tools.

Another very important category is new smartpens and needles, several which are in development. These will capture injection data and send information to a cell phone, the cloud, or a healthcare-provider dashboard. Experts believe these smartpens and needles will be more widely used than artificial pancreas, which is a closed loop system with the insulin pump and CGM, where insulin is delivered based on CGM data reading. No matter what device, technology or app you are using, the goal is to live a better, fulfilled and empowered life as a chronic diabetes patient. To achieve that, a number of factors do matter: your diet, your compliance, your activities and your medical support. IT can help to support all these areas by now.

Author: Eva Lajko