Diabetes is one of the widest spread diseases in South Africa. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), South Africa had the largest population of diabetic adults in Africa

Diabetes is one of the greatest comorbidities for COVID-19 putting many South African’s at risk of fatal illness. Type1 diabetes can be controlled with doses of insulin which stabilize blood sugar. Type 1 diabetics must regularly check their blood sugar and balance it with insulin to stay healthy; this can be tedious, inconvenient and sometimes impossible to do as regularly as they should.

Related: Why people with diabetes have an increased risk of cancer

Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) that alert the wearer of changes in their blood sugar without a finger prick test is widely available in South Africa, however because they are not covered by most medical aids, many South African diabetics are deprived of their life-changing benefits.

Kirsten De Klerk from Bete It, one of SA Diabetes Advocacy’s, says CGMs can help diabetics maintain their blood sugar and avoid devastating complications.

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Related: Scary rise in diabetes rates in SA

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What is a CGM?

A CGM or continuous glucose monitor is a revolutionary system that is worn on the skin and transmits messages to the wearer either automatically to their cell phone or simply by scanning the device.

This allows you to stay up-to-date on your blood sugar levels without breaking the skin or drawing blood. A CGM is placed on the skin and reads blood sugar levels painlessly.

“Most CGM devices are administered to be worn on the back of your arm. This area has been proven to have the most accurate readings and is the safest in terms of placement as the area prevents the device from being knocked off. Some devices are also administered to be worn on the stomach, upper buttocks and legs. They are all fairly small and inconspicuous – around the size of a R5 coin or slightly larger,” explains Kirsten.

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Who could benefit from CGMs?

Diabetes affects people differently. Type1 diabetes specifically means the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin or produces too little insulin to regulate blood sugar. This means insulin must be injected from outside the body.

“When blood sugar levels rise above or below the target range, there are immediate effects. Low blood sugars can result in many different symptoms including sweating, shaking, excessive hunger, increased heartbeat, confusion, irritability and dizziness,” says Kristen.

“If not treated very quickly, low blood sugar results in unconsciousness. High blood sugars can result in symptoms such as excessive thirst, frequent urination, nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath and fatigue. In the long-term, sustained high blood sugar also leads to diabetic complications: amputation, blindness, kidney failure, heart disease. Very low and high sugar readings can also lead to diabetic coma if not corrected in time,” she adds.

Related:What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

How much do CGMs cost?

Priced from less than R2 000 for a month’s supply, CGMs have worn as simply as a plaster and don’t require surgery or even a Dr’s visit to be worn.

“The cheapest on the market is around R1 980 for a month’s supply of sensors, but this version doesn’t include alerts (you have to scan the sensor rather than it sending readings automatically). Each CGM has varying features, some diabetics might want access to certain features that another device does not have,” says Kristen.

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.