No more painful finger pricking
Digital app allows users to scan a wearable sensor for real-time glucose readings
The teenager's health nightmare started when she was diagnosed with appendicitis about 10 months ago.
During her surgery, Jane (not her real name) was found to have a rapid heartbeat.
Her doctor then tested her glucose levels, which were higher than normal.
After several medical tests, the 14-year-old student was eventually diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes last October.
Due to her condition, Jane had to give up sugary drinks and processed foods, and check her glucose levels daily, which involved pricking her fingers several times a day.
The process can be cumbersome as you have to carry around a blood glucose meter, strips, alcohol swabs, needles and a lancing device.
According to Dr Kevin Tan, one in nine Singaporeans suffers from diabetes (approximately 11 per cent of the population), and every third Singaporean with diabetes has poor control over the condition.
The endocrinologist at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre and President of Diabetes Singapore told The New Paper: "Pricking on sensitive finger tips is also painful. The traditional finger prick tests are quite burdensome for a person on the go or for children."
Jane's mother, who wanted to be known only as Madam Ye, 34, said her daughter is "shy in nature" and did not want her schoolmates to know of her condition, so she would hide in a corner to check her glucose levels.
Jane told TNP: "It was so frustrating as I had to check my glucose levels in the middle of my lessons. It felt like I was putting my life on hold."
After a month of searching online for alternatives to lancets, Jane's family stumbled upon Abbott's FreeStyle Libre digital ecosystem of free mobile apps and a secure cloud-based data management system.
It uses a new technology called flash glucose monitoring, measuring glucose levels via a small wearable sensor on the back of the user's upper arm.
Users can then scan the sensor with their mobile phone to capture real-time glucose readings, an eight-hour history of their changing glucose levels and a trend arrow pointing to where their glucose levels are headed.
This can all be done by downloading the FreeStyle LibreLink app which is available for free on iPhones and Android phones. Parents and caregivers can also monitor a child's or elderly person's glucose levels remotely by using a companion app, LibreLinkUp.
According to Dr Tan, studies have shown that users check their glucose levels more regularly when they use FreeStyle Libre, launched in Singapore in 2017, and this results in a marked improvement in diabetes management.
He said: "Real-world data from 409 million glucose measurements from more than 50,000 FreeStyle Libre users in Europe showed people monitored their glucose levels on average 16 times per day."
Freestyle Libre has changed Jane's life for the better, as she no longer needs to undergo painful routine finger pricks.
"It's fast, easy and convenient to check my glucose levels since no one notices me doing it," she said.
Madam Ye, who works in building maintenance, said: "She just needs to use her mobile phone and she can get her readings. Teenagers can forget everything but they will never forget their phone.
"She doesn't have to worry about changing sensors as it lasts for two weeks. She can go on with her life, without any disruptions. The burden from having diabetes has somewhat lessened."
She added: "With the FreeStyle Libre system and its accompanying app, we are able to help check her glucose levels regularly, even when she's asleep. This can help prevent a hypoglycemic episode, which can be detrimental to her overall health."
Dr Tan said: "The biggest difference is that glucose testing is very discreet, so there isn't a stigma or social awkwardness that's associated with the traditional finger-pricking. For teenagers attending school, trying to make friends and 'fitting in', the social awkwardness of glucose testing is significant."