Advanced Diabetes Technology Helps Veterans

Army veteran Waldence Cohen was diagnosed with diabetes in 2018. To better track his blood sugar, he recently had a continuous blood glucose monitor (CGM) placed in his left arm.

“I started coming to VA for diabetic care a few years ago,” Cohen said. “The doctors here have been good to me and helped me get my numbers under control.”

CGM automatically tracks blood glucose (glycemia) levels 24/7. Continuous monitoring of blood glucose levels helps patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes to prevent diabetes complications. According to the CDC, these complications include heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and blindness.

“Using advanced diabetes technology, VA faculty members have found less hypoglycemia in veterans with diabetes,” said Dr. Hans Ghayee, Chief of Endocrinology, North Florida/South Georgia GO. “Cases of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia can be life-threatening for diabetic patients.”

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the CGM works through a tiny sensor inserted under the skin, usually on the arm or abdominal region. The sensor measures the level of interstitial glucose, the glucose found between cells. The sensor sends information wirelessly to the patient’s smartphone or tablet. If medical personnel place the CGM with an insulin pump, the CGM can track data that can help determine how much insulin to deliver.

Patients benefit from the artificial pancreas system

“Since 2018, many of our patients have also benefited from the development of an artificial pancreas system,” said Dr. Julio Leey, Diabetes Clinic Director at Malcom Randall VA. “It’s an insulin infusion pump plus a glucose sensor (CGM). This results in automatic adjustment of insulin to improve blood sugar control.

To increase Veterans’ access to quality diabetes care, the Office of Rural Health provided funding to implement these continuous glucose monitoring programs at VA Community Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs).

“VA has a unique advantage. Each clinic is staffed by a pharmacist and a dietitian who are both certified diabetes educators,” said Dr. Leey. “We use state-of-the-art technology and outreach activities to improve the quality of care for veterans, both in specialty clinics and at the local level.

The Diabetes Clinic at Malcom Randall VA is multifaceted. Its clinicians focus not only on diabetes care, but also on the nutritional needs, physical health, and mental well-being of patients. In the future, the clinic will take a closer look at the effects of depression on diabetes care and management.

“Without VA, I don’t know where I would be medically or financially,” Cohen said, after receiving his CGM sensor. “I am a living testimony that it works.”

Veterans with type 1 or type 2 diabetes should consult their primary care physician or endocrinologist to determine if CGM sensor technology or the artificial pancreas system is right for them.

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