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Wearable sugar testing device for diabetics in UAE

Asma Ali Zain
Filed on July 9, 2017 | Last updated on July 9, 2017 at 06.51 am
The FreeStyle Libre device measures the blood sugar levels from the tissue beneath the skin.
The FreeStyle Libre device measures the blood sugar levels from the tissue beneath the skin.

(Image retrieved from www.freestylelibre.ae)

In the UAE, almost 20 per cent of the population is diabetic and another 20 per cent is pre-diabetic.

A device, about the size of a Dh1 coin with a tiny strand about as wide as three human hairs, is what helps MA measure his sugar levels without him having to prick his finger several times a day.

This technically 'non-invasive' testing device has come as a blessing for hundreds and thousands of diabetic patients in the UAE. The device comprises a water resistant sensor patch worn on the top of the arm, which contains a filament the width of three human hairs that automatically tests blood sugar levels from cells beneath the skin.

MA, a Sales Director from Lebanon who lives in Dubai said he was diagnosed with diabetes when he was just 10 years old.

"I was diagnosed with Type One diabetes when I was 10 in 1987, so knew from then on I would be always dependent on insulin," said the now 40-year-old.
Being diagnosed with diabetes is life changing. "Living with such a complex illness at a young age was a significant challenge for my family and me," he said.

"When explaining the condition, the doctor informed us about the importance of paying constant attention to my blood glucose levels so I could help prevent serious complications like hypoglycaemia (severely low blood sugar levels) which can cause a coma or even death," he said.

While this is so important, having to monitor blood glucose levels by pricking fingers to draw a blood sample a number of times a day definitely impacted MA's daily life.

"I had to carry around my blood glucose machine, strips, alcohol swabs and lancets at all times, meaning I would always have a number of objects on hand. This affected my daily routine such as going swimming or playing sports like beach volley ball."

He said that his diet also changed to low carbohydrate, low sugar meals.
"However as finger pricking only gave me a picture of my glucose levels for 30 minutes, it was challenging to plan the right meals to suit my blood sugar levels throughout the day," he added.

This was until MA's doctor recommended the FreeStyle Libre device. "It comprises a small patch - about the size of a Dh1 coin - with a tiny strand about as wide as three human hairs. The strand automatically measures sugar levels from tissue beneath the skin," explained MA.

"The readings are then sent from the sensor to the reader by a one-second scan. This means there's no need for routine finger pricking. Importantly, it also delivers accurate glucose readings straight away, so I always know the direction my glucose is headed and can plan my meals and activities accordingly."

The device has changed MA's life drastically. "Finger pricking can be really painful, invasive and a hassle so, for me, this device has been a life-changer in every aspect of my life. I now test discreetly 40 to 60 times daily with the knowledge of what to expect next, compared to previously testing up to five to seven times with strips and no clear vision of what to expect," he said.

"It has lifted barriers from my day to day life, in the sense I no longer need to carry around four products - I can simply just check the reader and carry on with my day, which makes me feel a lot lighter and free. I also travel lots for work, so no longer have to think about pricking my finger on the plane. Most importantly my average glucose levels have improved drastically and I am taking a more active role in better managing my diabetes, he added.

MA is of the view that the device will be very helpful to people living in the region. "The region has a very high rate of diabetes, so thousands of people are monitoring their glucose levels on a daily basis. Giving people the choice to monitor without having to prick their fingers is a life-changing opportunity, and will hopefully positively impact the lives of many people living here," he said.

Last year, the Dubai Health Authority provided Emiratis with wearable, needle-free glucose monitoring device. The new monitor benefited select Emiratis and and is not reimbursable for expats for some patients who have been testing their blood sugar by pricking themselves more than eight times daily. In the UAE, almost 20 per cent of the population is diabetic and another 20 per cent is pre-diabetic.

asmaalizain@khaleejtimes.com


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