Nerve damage, kidney failure, vision loss and amputations -- these are a few of the many complications people with diabetes face. The only way to avoid them is to keep blood sugar levels in complete control. A new breakthrough is making it easier.
Kelly Pearce was diagnosed with Type I diabetes 14 years ago.
"At the time, I knew absolutely nothing about diabetes," said Kelly.
But he quickly learned about the devastating complications that can come with the disease if his blood sugars don't remain in control.
"The complications sort of drove me to find different things that would help me control it and control the diabetes better," said Kelly.
Six months ago, Kelly became one of the first people in the country to have a new continuous glucose monitoring system.
Dr. John Daniels said, "It monitors the blood sugar continuously so that one knows at any point in time during the day or night what your blood sugar is."
Until now, patients had to rely on finger sticks to check blood sugars, but those don't tell the whole story.
"You don't know whether your blood sugar is going up or whether it's going down and what it was for the previous three or four hours or the subsequent three or four hours," said Dr. Daniels.
With the new system, patients wear a sensor connected to an insertion point. Every five minutes, the sensor takes a new blood sugar reading and sends it to an insulin pump.
Patients then adjust insulin levels to keep blood sugars in check.
In a recent study, patients' blood sugars improved so much; they had a 35 percent lower risk of diabetes-related complications.
Today, Kelly's blood sugars are better than ever, and he's looking forward to a longer life with his wife and soon-to-be adopted son.
"The continuous glucose monitor is just one piece of that puzzle to help make sure I'm as healthy as I can be as he is starting to grow up."
A big advantage of the system is an alarm will sound to alert the patient when the blood sugar goes too high or too low so they can take action. Since low blood sugars can be extremely dangerous, even deadly, the alarm is life-saving, especially if blood sugars dip during sleep.
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