‘Life-changing’ blood sugar monitor for diabetics is for keeps

Diabetes device provided by government that gives real-time readings of blood sugar levels has given patients and carers better control over the disease

Diabetic children who were given an electronic device to monitor blood sugar levels will continue benefitting from the life-changing service after the pilot project ends.

The Health Ministry has confirmed that the 180 patients selected four months ago to try electronic devices that offer instant and continuous monitoring of glucose levels “will be given continued service even after the project testing ends”.

The devices transmit real time results to a mobile phone app, enabling patients to do away with the finger prick method to test sugar levels.

Parents who spoke to MaltaToday have recounted how the electronic devices have had a positive “life-changing” impact on the lives of their children and the family. But with two months to go for the pilot project to end, many were worried that the better quality of life they experienced will suddenly go away.

However, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry has told MaltaToday that those currently benefitting from the pilot project will continue to do so after the remaining two months of testing lapse.

She said that during the six-month project, patients would have tested the remote monitoring systems of two different suppliers.

“After this period of trial, the government will assess the service from the feedback received from the patients and clinicians and a supplier will be chosen on the basis of this assessment,” the ministry said.

People with diabetes require constant monitoring of blood glucose levels to be able to manage their condition. The electronic device gives constant updates that enable carers and patients to make instant dietary and physical activity changes to keep the sugar level under control.

Inadequate management of blood glucose levels can cause untold harm.

Keith Vassallo is a father to a 14-year-old boy who was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes almost three years ago. He told MaltaToday that the device provides continuous measurement of glucose levels and the fact that it can be monitored remotely gives him “a sense of security”.

Vassallo said such equipment is very costly if purchased privately with a monthly expense of around €450.

“The transmitter has to be changed every three months and the sensor, which is inserted beneath the skin, has to be replaced every 10 days. It is not an expense that many can afford so the government-run pilot project has really opened up the possibility for many others to benefit from this life-changing system,” Vassallo said.

His son knows how to monitor his glucose level and administer insulin but Vassallo added that the device has enabled him to be more independent.

“It gives him freedom because all he has to do is look at his mobile phone to check his glucose level,” Vassallo said.

In much younger children, who rely on their carers for assistance, the device gives parents peace of mind when their kids are at school or participating in extra-curricular activities.

“The mismanagement of diabetes can cause untold problems and although the traditional finger prick method gives an instant reading, nobody really knows what is happening between one finger prick test and another,” Vassallo explained.

He said continuous glucose monitoring was a game-changer for many families and augured that the service be extended to all people with diabetes.

It is a sentiment expressed by members of the Diabetes Association, who have welcomed the pilot project and want the service to be rolled out to all diabetics.

In a recent statement, the association said the pilot project has been a huge success with children and adolescents up to age 16.

It also called on the authorities to extend the service to all Type 1 Diabetes sufferers irrespective of age.

“This should be seen as a long-term investment that would effectively result in better control and management of one’s diabetes,” the association said.

The Health Ministry did not reply when asked whether the continuous monitoring service will be extended to all Type 1 diabetes sufferers irrespective of age.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes Mellitus is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin, or when the body cells cannot make proper use of the insulin produced, due to reduced sensitivity.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar concentration when this rises after a meal, or decreases while fasting.

Large swings in sugar concentration are detrimental to health, and lead to both short- and long-term effects. Hyperglycaemia, or raised blood sugar, may seriously damage body tissues such as of the kidneys, nerves, and blood vessels especially when this has been ongoing for a long time. Hypoglycaemia or reduced blood sugar causes the brain to cease functioning properly, and unless corrected immediately may lead to coma and eventually death.

Diabetes is an important cause for morbidity in Malta with around 10% of the population above 18 years estimated to be living with this condition, a proportion of whom are undiagnosed.

The incidence in Malta is expected to continue rising in all age groups, making diabetes a growing health problem.