Technological Advancements in Diabetes

When I think back to 1986 when I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I cannot help but think about how painful some of the things that we had to do on a daily basis were. I can remember using blood testing lancets, that would always hurt and usually left a good bruise. Things have come on a long way since those days. I started injecting insulin using syringes, which were not the nicest of things to use either. I used to withdraw insulin from two separate vials. One was a long acting insulin (Human Monotard) and one a short acting insulin (Human Actrapid). By the time I had taken the desired amount of insulin out of each vial, the needle would be a fair bit blunter. This would make it painful, and lead to yet more bruises! The reason for this was because under the rubber bung on each vial was a metal foil, which would blunt the needle each time it was pierced. When I started injecting, we used our needles more than once! Although I used to inject in my arms and legs, my favourite place to inject has always been my stomach. Even though I now use an insulin pump, I still tend to place the cannula in my abdomen.

About ten years after first using syringes and the torturous blood testing contraptions that I had come accustom to, I was given my first injection pen. Straight away I noticed the difference. One thing that stood out was that the pen used cartridges, so there was no need to withdraw the insulin from vials. The cartridges that I used with my first pen also contained two different types of insulin, a short and a long acting (Mixtard 30/70). Because there was no need to withdraw insulin from a vial, the needles stayed sharp for longer. The once distressing blood lancets had also become a lot better, although they still hurt and left the odd bruise, it was nothing like the early devices! Because of how painful I found blood testing in the past, I have tended not to do as many as I should have. I do realise that I have been very lucky with my diabetes, and looking back, I wish that I had paid a lot more attention to it than what I did!

Approximately ten years, I was given the opportunity to have another insulin pen. This one meant going from 2 to 4 injections a day. I had been reluctant to try this increase for a few years, otherwise I would have had this pen sooner. I was kept on 2 different types of insulin. Once again, a long acting (Lantis) and a short acting (Novo Rapid). The difference here was that I now injected the background insulin ( Lantis, basil) at the same time every night, which for me was 9pm. The fast acting (Novo Rapid Bolus) was injected before each meal and lasted for about 4 hours. After getting used to the new set of equipment I had and doing the carb counting course that I was put onto, I found that this gave me much more control, and I ended up wishing that I had opted to take the dive to this pen sooner! It did mean doing a blood test before each meal, which after seeing how much better I could control my glucose levels, I was more than happy to do – especially when they were virtually pain free.

Don’t get me wrong, this still had it’s complications, and my levels still went astray a fair bit. This new means of caring for my diabetes made it a lot easier to get my blood sugar levels back under control! With the new blood testing equipment that I had been given, I went onto a carb counting course, which I would recommend anyone doing so, if they have the opportunity. After doing a blood test and working out the carbohydrates that you are about to eat, you then input this data into the machine. It will then give you the amount of insulin you should administer.

A further 10 years down the line, and that’s around 30 years of me being diabetic and me getting the best device that I have had to date. In the January of this year (2015), thanks to my cousin (who also has diabetes pushing me to try the insulin pump) – I finally gave in and thought what do I have to lose? After all, I have lost out on better treatment in the past because of my reluctance to try new things! Because I had already done the carbohydrates counting course, I could go straight onto getting the pump setup and how to use it. It seemed very daunting at first, but I think that’s the case with most new technical devices! I now only use one type of insulin, a fast acting (Novo Rapid Bolus). Because of how precise the insulin pump is, it administers a small amount of insulin every 3 minutes, acting as a background insulin (basil); this is the reason for not needing a background insulin.

As with the blood testing machine I had before hand, I still have to enter the carbohydrates into the pump, before I eat. The initial set-up takes a while and a lot of blood tests, but I think with the outcome it is certainly worthwhile! It is still not 100% under control, but I don’t think you will ever get that right while having to use a device. The new blood testing monitor is now tiny and the lancets are even more bearable. The Accu Chek Fast Clix, is what I now use to get a small amount of blood. This has a cartridge with 6 lancets in the chamber. It is a lot quicker, and probably the best that we are going to have before there is no more need to draw blood!

I suppose that I will carry on with what I have now, and look forward to what the next 10 years will bring.

 

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(Fast Clix blood testing device with lancet cartridge)

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(Animas insulin pump)

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(One of the first devices I used in 1986)

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(Original syringes also used in 1986)