WEDNESDAY, Jan. 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Managing diabetes
requires a great deal of time, memory and math skills. There are
carbohydrates to count, medication doses to calculate and blood
sugar levels to track.
Today, there are numerous applications for smartphones and other
devices that can help you keep your diabetes in check, although
some people with the disease will tell you the technology still has
a ways to go.
Applications -- or "apps" -- can help you with nutrition advice,
carb counting, tracking blood sugar levels, medication alerts and
managing kids with diabetes.
Many apps are free, and some offer both paid and free versions.
Paid options may offer more bells and whistles, but you might find
what you need in a free app.
The big question is: Can these apps help make diabetes
That depends largely on whom you ask. Some people are thrilled
to have the assistance of these programs, while others feel that
the currently available apps don't do enough to make them
"It's never been easier to manage diabetes with all the technological stuff we have at our fingertips," said Steve Lisowski, who lives in Chicago. Lisowski has had type 2 diabetes for 15 years, and currently uses an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor to help manage his diabetes. He has used nutrition apps and an overall diabetes-management app.
Lisowski said he isn't currently using the diabetes app much
because his insulin pump does a lot of the same calculations and
One thing Lisowski said he would like to see is more
compatibility between devices so they could all share information.
For example, he said, it would be helpful if the information from
his pump could be wirelessly transmitted to an app on his
Lynn Marie O'Flaherty, whose 4-year-old daughter was diagnosed
with type 1 diabetes last June, said there's definitely room for
improvement in diabetes apps.
"The diabetes apps I have found to date are very disappointing," said O'Flaherty, who is from Yonkers, N.Y. "There are so many things they could be helping type 1 diabetics manage better in their day-in-and-day-out lives."
No matter what apps you use, they're no substitute for regular
visits to your doctor and education by a dietitian, an expert
"Apps don't replace your doctor," said Shelley Wishnick, a diabetes educator and registered dietitian with the Friedman Diabetes Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center, in New York City. "You still have to understand the disease process. You have to understand your diabetes. An app can't replace your education."
Wishnick said she doesn't have a lot of patients who rely on
diabetes apps yet -- or those who do don't bring it to her
attention. There are a number of apps, such as iBGStar, OneTouch
Reveal, OnTrack Diabetes, Glucool, Glooko and Glucose Buddy, that
can help you track your blood sugar levels, she said.
But, Wishnick said, nothing beats writing down the numbers.
"If you don't write it, you're not feeling it," she said. But apps that record your blood sugar numbers could be helpful for identifying trends, such as high blood sugar levels after eating certain foods or at particular times during the day, she said.
One area in which many people with diabetes need help is
carbohydrate counting. People with type 2 diabetes who aren't using
insulin often need to limit the number of carbs they consume in a
Moreover, people with type 1 diabetes and those with type 2 who
need insulin must always know how many carbs are in foods so they
can give themselves the right amount of insulin, a hormone that
helps process carbs.
With her daughter, O'Flaherty said, "Even before she was
released from her hospital stay when she was diagnosed as a type 1
diabetic, I had Calorie King and Diabetes 360 installed on my
Other nutrition apps include Fooducate, Restaurant Nutrition and
With everything people with diabetes have to keep track of, it
can be easy to forget a blood sugar check or miss a dose of
medication. Apps such as Glucose Buddy and Dbees can help remind
you to take care of these tasks. You set the alerts and reminders
you want to receive, and your phone will let you know when it's
time for a certain task.
Apps can also help parents manage diabetes in their children.
ShugaTrak, for example, sends a text to a parent or caregiver when
a child's blood sugar is checked during the school day. Apps can
also help parents keep track of injection or pump sites, which need
to be rotated regularly.
O'Flaherty said she uses a to-do app to keep track of sites,
because she hasn't yet found a diabetes-specific app for this
"As a population that is increasingly tied to our smartphones, there are many ways a good app could be helpful in managing the overall health of diabetics better," she said. "Diabetics have enough to handle every day and to think about day in and day out. It would be nice to have a comprehensive app to help make this burden a little lighter."
Learn more about the importance of tracking your blood sugar --
whether with an app or on paper -- from the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
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