Blood glucose checks? It's not finger-prickin' good.


In my position as both an editor covering diabetes supplies but also, as a person with diabetes, I am well attuned to all the diabetes news and announcements that come out.

Sometimes, as in the case of headlines about insulin sticker shock, I am tempted to duck my head.

Other times, when I hear about the latest innovation, I’ll think, “meh.” That’s especially true when it comes to so-called ouchless technology. If you have to prick your finger with something sharp, it’s gonna hurt.

However, a recent press release heralding success with a breathalyzer device to measure blood sugar caught my attention. THAT, I thought, would be truly pain free.

I spoke with one of the researchers, Dr. Ronny Priefer, who’s been working on this device.

Folks have been looking for a solution to finger sticks for nearly 40 years and the list includes wristbands, earlobe sensors and contact lenses. Even Google has jumped into the fray, teaming up with Novartis to research methods of using tears to check blood sugar.

The impetus behind all this activity? So that more people with diabetes will actually check their sugars. The fear of pain keeps many from doing so. Preifer himself doesn’t have diabetes, but as a guinea pig, he pricked his finger 25 times in one day.

“It’s not a pleasant feeling,” he said. “I’m not volunteering to do it again.”

I feel his pain. When I landed in the ICU with my diabetes diagnosis, I had my sugar checked hourly by the nurses to establish, I guess, some sort of baseline. That’s roughly 24 x a day for 2 to 3 days. Fortunately, my fingers were kinda numb from the high sugars.

Until. Day 4, when they’ve brought me much more under control and moved me to a regular room (on a ward with a lot of old people). My breakfast arrived and when I went to whip off the plate cover, I felt the sting of all those fingersticks. I may or may not have inadvertently flung it at the wall.

Fast forward to today, I am and have always been fairly diligent about finger sticks. (But yes, sometimes I just don’t do it. I guess at what I need.)

It gives me hope that, despite many sexier or higher profile diseases to work on, plenty of researchers are still looking for ways to make life with diabetes a little easier.

My interview with Dr. Preifer is slated for the January issue of HME News.