7 Benefits of Continuous Glucose Monitors for CKD

Continuous Glucose Monitors are a type of technology that allow people with diabetes to monitor their blood sugar numbers around the clock without having to do a bunch of finger sticks. You wear a sensor on your body and the sensor sends blood sugar data straight to your phone (or other receiver), so you can check your blood sugar levels whenever you want.

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As a dietitian and expert in kidney nutrition, I am a BIG fan of using continuous glucose monitors to help people with CKD control their diabetes and protect their kidneys. Here are some of the top reasons I love continuous glucose monitors:

1. Preventing hypoglycemia with Continuous Glucose Monitors

Hypoglycemia, which is the official name for low blood sugar, is something that we want to avoid as much as possible with diabetes. Mild hypoglycemia occurs when the blood sugar levels fall below 70 mg/dl and can cause symptoms such as shakiness, irritability (we call it being hangry in our house), confusion, rapid heart rate, and hunger. More severe hypoglycemia can cause seizures, coma, and even death.

Continuous glucose monitors check your blood sugar levels through out the day and can be set up with alerts to let you know when your blood sugar levels are getting close to the hyperglycemia range. Instead of waiting until you actually have low blood sugar and need to treat it with fast acting carbohydrates, you can instead choose to eat a well-balanced kidney + diabetes friendly snack or meal to get your blood sugar levels up into an ideal range. By choosing a well-balanced meal or snack to get your blood sugars back up, you can not only help prevent future episodes of low blood sugar, but you can also prevent your blood sugars from rising too quickly.

2. Substitute Continuous Glucose Monitors for inaccurate A1C

For some people with CKD, the hemoglobin A1C is not an accurate measurement for how well you are controlling your diabetes. Continuous glucose monitors provide several measurements that can act as a substitute for A1C – and are even arguably better than A1C!

For example, you can review your “Time in Range” metric to see how much of your day you spend within the recommended range of 70 – 180 mg/dL. The more time you spend outside this range, the more at risk you are for complications related to diabetes. Regardless of whether you have kidney disease or not, A1C cannot tell you how much of your time you spend in range.

3. Better identification of high blood sugars with Continuous Glucose Monitors

Blood sugar levels above 180 mg/dl increase your risk of complications – including worsening kidney damage. By avoiding high blood sugar levels, you can reduce your risk of further kidney damage.

If you are checking your blood sugar levels using the finger stick method, then you may be missing out on capturing high blood sugars.

Blood sugar levels can peak anywhere between 1 to 3 hours after eating a meal depending on what was eaten, so if you check your blood sugar at the wrong time, you may think that your blood sugar is being controlled better than it is.

Continuous glucose monitors will check your glucose levels throughout the day, so you will know if you have a high blood sugar after a meal.

4. Faster feedback on food choices with Continuous Glucose Monitors

If you aren’t checking your blood sugar numbers, then the only way to get feedback on your lifestyle changes is to wait until you have your next hemoglobin A1C drawn. Unfortunately, A1C can only be measured every 3 months because of how quickly hemoglobin turns over in the body.

Waiting 3 months for feedback means that you miss out on a lot of opportunities to make better choices. With a continuous glucose monitor, you will know in just a few hours whether your food choices are helping you with your blood sugar control.

By getting quicker feedback, you can adjust what you eat or how much of a food you eat to get the results that you want. This will enable you to see faster improvements in your diabetes control.

5. Fewer finger sticks with Continuous Glucose Monitors

One of the biggest obstacles people have to checking their blood glucose numbers is the pain and chore of doing finger sticks. Depending on your unique needs, you may be asked to check your blood sugar 4 or more times per day, which can be quite painful for some people.

By using a continuous glucose monitor, you can eliminate almost all of your finger sticks and still be getting important information to make the best decisions for you and your diabetes.

6. Improved medication dosing with Continuous Glucose Monitors

Continuous glucose monitors can help tremendously with diabetes medication dosing.

For people on insulin, being able to monitor you blood sugar can let you know whether you need to use more insulin or if you even need to be using less insulin to avoid hypoglycemia.

For people who are not on insulin, but using other types of medications, continuous glucose monitors can also help identify patterns in your blood sugars that can enable your doctors to decide if you need to increase the dose of a medication to make it more effect, or even change the timing. It can also help them understand when you can get off of a medication if you can demonstrate better control of your blood sugar numbers.

7. More opportunity to take control of your diabetes with Continuous Glucose Monitors

Continuous glucose monitors offer you countless opportunities to make small changes in your lifestyle that can add up to a big change in your health.

Did your blood sugar go up a bit too much after breakfast? Maybe you decide for the next day that you’ll eat a bit less of a breakfast and plan for a mid morning snack instead.

Blood sugar spiked a couple hours after lunch? When you get the alert, you can choose to get up and do something active like clean the house to help get those blood sugars back down in range.

Blood sugar running too high at night? Call your doctor and ask if one of your diabetes medications should be adjusted to help control that better.

Without seeing the numbers, it can be difficult to make the right decisions.

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