2 Type 1 Diabetes Gadgets I Want Everyone to Know About

2 Type 1 Diabetes Gadgets I Want Everyone to Know About

Three years ago, a doctor diagnosed me with Type 2 diabetes after a blood test showed a high A1C level. He wrote me a prescription for Metformin and sent me on my way without information or instructions. I left the office feeling alone, afraid and confused.

After six months taking the medication as prescribed, I felt ill all the time and had lost 20 pounds. I found a new doctor, who told me to start testing my blood glucose levels, aka blood sugar, a few times each day. I was already a tech YouTuber reviewing gadgets on social media, so naturally I decided to begin documenting this on TikTok. I posted videos talking about my diagnosis, using a glucometer to test blood glucose and my results.

These videos exploded with comments telling me to get tested for Type 1 diabetes and that I should treat my diabetes with insulin. I was told to get a C-peptide test to check for autoantibodies and get a correct diagnosis, so I went and got that lab work done.

TikTok was right

The results came back positive for an adult form of diabetes known as latent autoimmune disease in adults, or LADA, also known as Type 1.5, a chronic illness managed the same as Type 1. Apparently, 60% of Type 1 diagnoses happen over the age of 20 years old, but awareness of this is very low. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that, of the over 38 million Americans who have diabetes, 8.7 million of them are undiagnosed.

As I learned more about the disease and the technology used to manage it, I made more videos. After each endocrinologist or diabetes educator visit, I would hop on TikTok and share with people what I had learned. Thus began my channel, Diabetech, where I show people how I manage diabetes and the technologies that exist to help people live better lives. Two years later this hobby of mine would become a full-time career, posting videos weekly to YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, along with a podcast. 

Here are two devices I wear and use that everyone should know about.

Continuous glucose monitors

Soon after diagnosis, I began wearing a continuous glucose monitor. This wearable device measures blood glucose levels every five minutes and sends the information to my smartphone. CGMs can be as small as two stacked pennies and are applied to the skin using an applicator. The applicator inserts a sensor, about an inch or two in length and the thickness of three hairs, below the skin.

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A CGM on the author’s arm.

Justin Eastzer

Wearing a CGM has made living with diabetes much more manageable for a few reasons. The sensor alerts me when I have high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia) or low glucose levels (hypoglycemia). Getting ahead of a low glucose level can be life-saving; when left untreated, it could lead to passing out, or worse, a diabetic coma. Thanks to these alerts, I’ve avoided scary situations and am thankful to have been diagnosed at a time when it exists.

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A screenshot of blood glucose levels in the Dexcom G7 CGM iPhone app.

Justin Eastzer

The real-time glucose readings sent to my phone help me understand how the foods I eat and the insulin doses I take affect me. If I notice high glucose levels after a meal, it’s possible that I didn’t dose enough insulin to cover the meal and I can alter my approach next time I eat the same thing.

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of CGM readings are using them in combination with an insulin pump to automate insulin delivery. 

Insulin pumps

Insulin pumps dose insulin throughout the day to help people with diabetes keep their glucose levels in target. It’s a common misconception that people with diabetes who use a pump “have it figured out,” but this isn’t true. Although today’s automated insulin pumps take a lot of the burden of diabetes away from users, pumps still require user attention and interaction.

There are two types of insulin pumps on the market, tubed and tubeless. The tubed pumps are as small as a beeper or phone and have a tube connecting the device to an infusion site on the user. I wear a tubeless pump called an Omnipod. This is a disposable, wearable pump that’s adhered to the body every three days, which stores and injects insulin. 

As someone who is active, I like the mobility of this device. Infusion sites for all pumps are approved in a bunch of areas, including the abdomen, arms, buttocks and more.

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Insulin pumps, like the tubeless Omnipod pump shown here, can pair with a CGM to help regulate insulin release.

Justin Eastzer

Thanks to CGMs, insulin pumps can get the information they need to automate insulin delivery based on the trajectory of glucose readings. When people with diabetes eat, they still need to alert the pump how many carbs a meal has and “prebolus” their insulin about 10-15 minutes ahead of a meal. Without these two steps, users will likely have difficulty managing ideal glucose levels.

Ultimately, I would like to see manufacturers create a true “artificial pancreas” — pumps that take away all user interaction and can keep blood glucose levels in target range. The industry is making strides there with meal detection technology, and the open-source community known as #WeAreNotWaiting is experimenting with algorithms that have dynamic settings and require little to no interaction.

Know the basics of diabetes tech

There are still many people who struggle with diabetes management or aren’t even diagnosed. By knowing about these life-saving technologies, you’ll be better equipped to support yourself and the loved ones in your life.

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