For some people with diabetes, technology can be a really important part of how they manage their diabetes. But it’s not right for everyone.
There are lots of different types of diabetes tech, like insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors (CGM for short). When you hear your healthcare professional talking about diabetes technology, they’ll usually be referring to tech that helps you take insulin or tech to check your blood sugar levels.
So before you decide to use diabetes technology, it’s important to think about whether it’s the best choice for you. Your can also chat it through with your healthcare professional.
Types of diabetes technology
Depending on the type of diabetes you have, you might already be using things like insulin pens and blood glucose (sugar) monitors. Or maybe apps and smart technology to help you keep an eye on your weight and activity levels. But your options to manage your diabetes are growing as technology starts to develop.
When it comes to diabetes and technology, you might think of things like CGMs and flash glucose monitors.
But there are three broad themes to diabetes technology:
- Tech for taking insulin.
- Tech for checking blood sugars.
- Tech to help you manage your diabetes, like carb counting apps and ketone monitors.
Everyone with type 1 and some people with type 2 take insulin. The most common way for you to take insulin is with an insulin pen. But now there are more ways, thanks to changes in tech. Your diabetes technology can now include insulin pumps and smart insulin pens.
Find out more about insulin pumps.
A more recent technology for taking insulin is a closed-loop system (sometimes called the artificial pancreas) where your pump releases insulin based on readings from your continuous glucose monitor (CGM).
Find out more about closed-loop systems.
Tech for checking blood sugars
It’s really important you try to get your blood sugars at target levels to avoid serious diabetes complications, like problems with your feet and heart. Using diabetes tech helps some people keep a closer eye on their levels.
You’ll have an HbA1c check every three, six or twelve months, to check your average blood sugar levels. But people with diabetes who take insulin or other medication that causes hypos will check their blood sugar levels at home too. You need a blood sugar monitor and test strips to do this.
Blood sugar monitors have been around for a long time now. If you need one to help you manage your diabetes, your diabetes team can help you choose the right one for you.
Newer tech to help you check your blood sugars are CGMs and Flash. These electronic blood sugar monitors let you check your blood sugar levels without pricking your fingers. And you can see what happens to your blood sugar levels during the day and night.
Tech to help you manage your diabetes
There are other types of tech that can help you manage your diabetes, like ketone monitors which measure the amount of ketones in the blood.
Ketones are poisonous chemicals that can develop if there isn’t enough insulin in the body to allow enough glucose to enter the cells. High ketone levels in the blood can lead to a serious condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).
Ketone monitors are recommended for everyone with type 1 diabetes and offered to them on the NHS. If you use insulin and have another type of diabetes and think you could benefit from one too, speak to your healthcare professional.
There are also lots of apps and smart technology that can help you with managing your weight, exercising and carb counting. These aren’t always only for people with diabetes, but you might find them useful for keeping a record of what you’re eating and how much activity you do. There are also apps that are specially designed for people with diabetes, covering everything to help you manage your diabetes.
These apps can be downloaded onto your phone from wherever you usually download apps from, for example, the App Store or Google Play Store.
Hybrid closed loop systems (artificial pancreas)
You also might have heard about DIY diabetes technology. This is when people in the diabetes community build their own systems where their insulin pump can talk to their CGM. It’s unregulated so we can’t recommend them. But there is a regulated version call the hybrid closed loop system. Your CGM and insulin pump work together to give you insulin when your blood sugar is going high and stop insulin when it’s going low.
There are certain criteria that you’ll have to meet in order to get diabetes technology prescribed for free through the NHS. Check the latest guidelines.
You can also pay for your tech if you want to, but buying it and ongoing costs can be expensive. And new tech comes on the market all the time. So it’s important to speak to your healthcare professional before you do, so that they can advise you on the tech that will suit you.
New technology for diabetes
There are dozens of research projects exploring different types of diabetes technologies and the benefits they can have for people with diabetes. These are in various stages of research and clinical testing. Some of them could one day revolutionise the way you look after your diabetes.