How Does a Continuous Glucose Monitor Work?

A CGM works by tracking your glucose levels throughout the day. Learn how a CGM can help with diabetes management.

How Does a Continuous Glucose Monitor Work?

A CGM works by tracking your glucose levels throughout the day. Learn how a CGM can help with diabetes management.

Useful for anyone with a blood sugar imbalance, a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a device that continuously measures blood glucose (sugar) levels every few minutes. Continuous glucose monitoring allows the user to learn their blood sugar trends and better understand how different factors, such as diet and exercise, can affect blood sugar.

Why is understanding blood sugar levels important? An estimated 30 million adults - or roughly 12% of the U.S. population - have diabetes according to the CDC. What’s more concerning is that an estimated 7 million of these individuals were not aware of or did not report having diabetes. On top of that, more than one-third of U.S. adults have metabolic syndrome. The ultimate goal with any type of metabolic condition, like diabetes or metabolic syndrome, is to achieve normal healthy blood sugar levels. One of the ways to do this is through by making lifestyle changes, such as changing eating habits and becoming being more active.

When someone is aware of how their blood sugar levels fluctuate throughout the day, they can better adjust their lifestyle habits in order to achieve their blood sugar goals. Continuous glucose monitoring provides continuous feedback without the need for multiple fingerstick blood sugar checks, making it a convenient option for those seeking to improve their health.

What is Continuous Glucose Monitoring?

Continuous glucose monitoring is technology involving wearing a sensor (often called a continuous glucose monitor, or CGM device) under the skin, which continually measures blood sugar levels every few minutes. The sensor is attached to a transmitter, which sends the blood sugar data to the receiver. The receiver is either a wireless device or an app that works specifically with the CGM.

Continuous glucose monitoring allows the user to view their blood sugar readings at any time, by scanning the sensor with their receiver. Past blood sugar results are also shown, often in a graph form. This information helps identify trends and changes in blood sugar over time, which can help the user and their healthcare provider work together to make any necessary changes to their care plan, such as avoiding certain foods that spike blood sugar or adjusting medication doses.

Using a CGM device is useful for people with diabetes or metabolic disorders because it gives them much more information about how their blood sugar levels fluctuate throughout the day. The primary alternative is to check blood sugar multiple times during the day using a fingerstick blood test, or to have blood sugar tests done at a healthcare provider’s office every few months. CGM devices are much more convenient as they don’t require multiple fingersticks, or trips to the doctor’s office or laboratory.

Who should use a CGM?

People with diabetes are the most prevalent users of continuous glucose monitors. However, people without diabetes can also benefit from using this technology. Those with metabolic syndrome, prediabetes or other symptoms of insulin resistance like weight gain or high blood pressure, as well as people suffering from non-diabetic hypoglycemia, can better understand their personalized glucose response by using continuous glucose monitoring technology. A CGM is often used by people with type 1 diabetes in conjunction with an insulin pump; however, continuous glucose monitoring can also be used by people with type 2 diabetes regardless of medication regimen. Using a CGM device provides much more information about blood sugar fluctuations than finger sticks through collecting blood sugar measurements as often as every five minutes (or 288 readings daily). People who don’t yet have diabetes but are at increased risk can gain a lot of useful information through using a CGM. Lifestyle changes are often the main recommendation made by healthcare professionals to reverse mildly elevated blood sugar and prevent a diabetes diagnosis. Without having the feedback provided by a CGM, these people may feel lost as to how to improve their blood sugar. When armed with blood sugar data from a CGM, patients and their healthcare team can receive real-time feedback about how their lifestyle habits affect blood sugar in order to make a change in the right direction, like cutting certain foods or fasting after a certain time of day.

Advantages of CGM for people with diabetes

There are studies showing the efficacy of continuous glucose monitoring for reducing blood sugar levels, as CGM devices provide a more comprehensive picture of blood sugar trends (testing continuously versus testing a few times per day). One study using a popular CGM device found an average reduction in hemoglobin A1c (a measure of long-term blood sugar control) by 1% over 24 weeks of regular use, with 52% of the subjects showing a reduction in A1c greater than 1%. Other studies have confirmed the correlation between CGM use and clinically significant reductions in A1c levels of users. Another unique benefit of continuous glucose monitoring for people with diabetes is the ability to view blood sugar trends overnight. For those who experience nocturnal hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar during the night, CGM devices can be particularly useful to increase awareness and reduce the incidence by making adjustments to diet or medication. Some people with diabetes experience the “Dawn Phenomenon,” a rise in blood sugar levels observed between the hours of 3:00-8:00 AM. By using continuous glucose monitoring, the user can identify when blood sugar levels are at their highest during the night and work with their healthcare provider to formulate a treatment plan to keep blood sugar levels from being too high. Another common issue in people with diabetes is having low blood sugar in the early morning hours, called nocturnal hypoglycemia. Nocturnal hypoglycemia is especially dangerous because the person may not notice symptoms like they would during the day. In fact, nocturnal hypoglycemia is estimated to make up over half of all severe hypoglycemia episodes. Using a CGM can help the user and their healthcare team come up with a plan to manage overnight low blood sugar.

Pairing continuing glucose monitors with PlateJoy Health

PlateJoy Health empowers users with the tools they need to take control of their body, blood sugar, and metabolism. We recognize that everyone’s treatment plan is unique, and we design personalized programs to prevent and treat metabolic disorders using blood testing, biometric data and physician-supervised nutrition plans. For qualifying patients, PlateJoy Health physicians can prescribe continuous glucose monitors that uncover data insights about a patient’s personal metabolism and how it reacts to certain foods. Using this information and other insights into the patient’s lifestyle, we create a meal plan that meets factors such as taste preferences, skill level, time constraints and most importantly, their nutritional and metabolic needs. Learn if PlateJoy Health is a viable option for your treatment plan.