Published on December 26th, 2013 | by Claresa Levetan MD, FACE
When glucose sensors first became available in clinical trials some 2 decades ago, I decided to wear a sensor to compare my glucose levels as a non-diabetic individual with glucose levels of my patients. I was excited to have this new tool, which measured 288 glucose readings a day and could be used 3 days at a time, as a resource for patients, particularly for those with blood glucose levels that had been difficult to control.
During my training as an endocrinologist, we didn’t have glucose meters. In the hospital, we used glucose strips that required drawing a significant amount of blood, then waiting and wiping the blood off. You determined glucose range based on how dark the strip became.
While wearing my sensor, I did my best to exercise and eat correctly, but I also indulged in chocolate donuts. Still, when I compared my daily readings with that of a patient with a fabulous A1C of 6.3%, I was shocked. Even with the donuts, my highest glucose over the three days was 103 mg/dL, whereas my patient’s A1C levels could bounce from 50 to 500 mg/dL in moments. There was no comparison.
Here I was patting myself on the back for thinking that I was taking such great care of my patients, when in reality, I learned that comparing A1Cs for people with and without diabetes was like comparing apples and oranges. Even patients who used insulin pumps, ate the same meals every day, exercised daily and “did everything right” can hardly hope to achieve the glucose levels of a person without diabetes. I realized I needed to stop blaming my patients or thinking myself superior.