“I want that meter where you don’t have to prick your finger,” my patient told me excitedly.
Another victim of late-night TV. Once again, it falls to me to shatter someone’s dreams. “Sorry,” I said, “we don’t have that technology yet.”
“But… but...” sputtered my patient, waving his arms in the air, “they said that you don’t have to poke your finger.”
I guess it’s legitimate to advertise “no more poking your finger” as virtually all meters in the USA are approved for alternate site testing, poking your arm instead of your fingertip, but it’s misleading. If you tell someone with diabetes that they don’t have to poke their finger, their mind leaps to the Buck Rogers dream of non-invasive testing—getting a blood sugar reading without breaking the skin.
Sorry, gang. We're not there. Not yet.
But the day may be closer than you think. Last year, the American company VeraLight won Canadian and European approval for a non-invasive diabetes screening tool called the Scout DS. You can buy it in Europe, the Middle East, Canada, Mexico, and a few places in Asia. Whoa. Don’t pack your bags just yet. Sit back down. There’s more you need to know.
The Scout, designed for public places like retail pharmacies, detects if your sugar has been higher than normal over time, without having to break the skin at all. It works by measuring skin fluorescence for abnormal concentrations of advanced glycation endproducts. Uh… right… In other words, it’s magic.
Scout is described as “portable.” Note that portable and pocketable are not synonymous. In point of fact, the device is about the size of most computer scanners. It also takes three minutes to work. Ah. And it needs a wall to plug it into. And it doesn’t give precise blood sugar readings.
So when will we have poke-free testing? A Google search will find dozens of university press releases stating their researchers have finally solved the problem, along with dozens more startups just needing a little more cash to bring their meter to market.
But so far, the road to the non-invasive meter is paved with money. Millions have been lost by scores of companies over the last thirty years. Lasers, infrared light, chemicals, and special filters have all been brought to bear on skin and on the surface of the eye to try to tease out blood sugar without drinking a sip of blood. One outfit is even experimenting with glucose-sensitive ink for tattoos that would change color to indicate your blood sugar level. Can I get mine in a half-naked mermaid?
It will happen someday. Oh, I meant the poke-free meter, not the mermaid. But meanwhile, we have some technology, today, to help with those fingersticks; and that’s new and improved lancing devices that take the sting out of testing. Two of the best are the Delica and the FastClix. Still invasive, but minimally so.
That’s technology in action.