Hey there, Diabetes Community!

Welcome back to another round of our weekly advice column, Ask D'Mine, hosted by veteran type 1, diabetes author and educator Wil Dubois.

This week, Wil hears a heart-breaking story about a very scary hypo and how it's making one family wonder what options exist that could help... perhaps some diabetes tech that could be worn on the wrist? In these times of #WeAreNotWaiting, Wil has many thoughts to share on the possibilities...

 

{Got your own questions? Email us at AskDMine@diabetesmine.com}

 

Jennifer, type 3 from Alabama writes: Is the Sleep Easy wristband glucose meter being sold yet? Where do I buy it, and how much does it cost? I really need one. My mom's sugar dropped to 28 in less than 15 minutes and if my son had not heard her yell, and went to check on her, she would be dead. I had to rush her to the hospital. I feel that something that can maybe make alarms sound when sugar gets below 80, so you have time to treat it before it gets to low and dangerous, would be very useful. Please help me.

Innovation 2015

Wil@Ask D'Mine answers: What a horrible, and frightening experience for all of you. I'm sorry this happened, but I'm glad that all the right people were in all the right places all at the right time: Your son to hear her, and you to get her to the hospital. Sometimes it seems that only our families understand just how dangerous this disease can really be, but that's not actually true. There are all kinds of researchers, groups, and companies working on solutions to make us safer (while making themselves richer).

But that said, I'd never heard about the device you are asking about, and I couldn't find any info about it online either. I tried searching for Sleep Easy every which-way, but that particular device just doesn't seem to exist. I do agree that such a device would be "very useful" and I'd snap one up and strap it on my wrist in a heartbeat.

The good news is, there's a groundswell at the moment of hackers and innovators out there working hard to design a similar solution. (See our recent report on some of those data-on-your-wrist projects.) Of course, what we have right now requires tapping into existing continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) tech -- so there's no stand-alone wrist-sensor diabetes device at this point.

 

Still, projects like the Nightscout/CGM in the Cloud allow you to basically hack into your CGM and send that data to the cloud, and then zap the data to a smartphone or to a pebble smartwatch or other device for viewing. No, this isn't commercially available, but there are thousands already using it and more are signing on every day.

This and other projects like the Do-It-Yourself Pancreas System have banded together in a grassroots movement called #WeAreNotWaiting -- as in, not waiting for Big Pharma, FDA, health insurance companies or others to determine the kind of tools we have access to.

And with all talk of the new Apple Watch these days, there's lots of hope that these wrist-worn options for health data will be getting more powerful and more mainstream very soon.

If you've been Googling diabetes wristbands, you might have seen this ongoing crowdfunding campaign for the InfraV No-Blood, Glucose Vital Signs Monitoring Watch that's a dream yet to be realized. And maybe you caught wind of this video for the Micro-Meter Wristband device that was an entrant our own DiabetesMine Design Challenge in 2011.

Or maybe you stumbled onto the lingering buzz over another Design Challenge entrant that's classic case of a design concept gone viral: Sleep Well. Back in 2009 a pair of young graphic designers crafted this idea for a wrist-worn glucose alarm system to enter in our design contest. The concept was so far ahead of its time it didn't even place, but the next year one of the designers used the images as part of her online portfolio -- one thing led to another, and dozens of websites picked up the design as if it were a real product and a lot of people got very excited. Then very disappointed.

About the only product actually on the market that even comes close to what you want is the Diabetes Sentry. Diabetes Sentry DeviceThis is a wristband low-blood-sugar warning system that works by detecting two common symptoms of low blood sugar: perspiration and reductions in skin temperature. It sounds great, but not so fast—there are some problems. People who don't feel their lows, medically called the "hypo unaware," often don't have the physiological symptoms the device can detect. In plain English, this means that the Diabetes Sentry won't work for the people who probably need it the most.

To their credit, the makers of the Sentry are very up-front about this, and their online order form comes right out and asks you if you experience the two key symptoms when your blood sugar is dropping. If you answer "no," the website declines to accept your order and tells you, "It does not appear that Diabetes Sentry is the best fit for your diabetic needs."

Given what you told me, it's hard to say if Diabetes Sentry would help your mom or not. The fact that she called out suggests she had some warning, if ever so scant. The Sentry costs 500 clams, which is a lot, but unlike every other blood glucose monitoring solution the only "consumables" are the batteries. No strips or sensors to buy.

I've never worn one, and it wouldn't work for me, as I'm hypo unaware, but you can read fellow D-writer David Mendosa's lukewarm review of that product on HealthCentral.

Of course, the $500 might be better invested on the waist, rather than on the wrist. Although it's a whole order more expensive, a traditional CGM system like the Dexcom might be a better (and more proven) solution to your mother's plight. I think most people will agree that CGM technology has come of age and is a reliable way to avoid an unexpected blood sugar of 28. And while CGM is more expensive, both to buy and to maintain, it might very well be covered by your mother's health insurance. They've already paid for one hospital ER visit. I'm sure they'd like to avoid paying for another. It doesn't hurt to point that out to them.

Lastly, lows happen. To all of us. It's the price we pay for doing business with most diabetes medications, especially insulin. But that said, a low that deep is a wakeup call that maybe your mother's therapy needs adjustment, so it wouldn't hurt to take her into her medical team for a tune up.

Our needs always change and evolve; there's nothing carved in stone when it comes to diabetes. And this is particularly true as we get older. Insulin resistance drops. The size of our typical meals, and patterns of sleep and activity tend to change. Of course, any one low, especially a bad one, was likely the result of a nasty chain of circumstances -- but still, it could be the warning sign that the therapy plan that used to work reliably for her needs to be adjusted.

Meanwhile, I'm pretty excited that we're seeing the development of this type of Dick Tracy-type watch for our diabetes. I have my fingers crossed that the D-industry will start following suit before long, especially with all the wearable tech craze going on these days.

 

 

This is not a medical advice column. We are PWDs freely and openly sharing the wisdom of our collected experiences — our been-there-done-that knowledge from the trenches. But we are not MDs, RNs, NPs, PAs, CDEs, or partridges in pear trees. Bottom line: we are only a small part of your total prescription. You still need the professional advice, treatment, and care of a licensed medical professional.

 

 
Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.

Disclaimer

This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.