Internet program helps diabetics monitor sugar

NEW YORK Fri Aug 8, 2008 1:44pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - An Internet-based blood-sugar monitoring program appears to help people with type 1 diabetes better manage their condition, researchers report.

Type 1 diabetes, also known as insulin-dependent diabetes, usually strikes people in their teens and twenties, and requires regular insulin injections and close monitoring of blood sugar, or glucose.

For the new study, researchers looked at whether an online program in "blood glucose awareness training" could help type 1 diabetics better manage the disease.

The program, dubbed BGAThome, is an adaptation of well-studied program that uses group sessions to teach diabetics tactics for predicting and preventing blood sugar ups-and-downs -- such as keeping daily diaries on glucose levels and recording symptoms associated with sugar lows.

The Internet version is designed to allow patients to improve their diabetes management from the privacy of their own home, Dr. Daniel Cox, the lead researcher on the study, told Reuters Health.

He and his colleagues at the University of Virginia Health Systems in Charlottesville followed 25 middle-aged adults with type 1 diabetes, half of whom were enrolled in the BGAThome program, and half of whom were placed a waiting list for the program.

The researchers found that patients who used the program became more likely to make wise choices concerning low blood sugar levels. They were more likely, for example, to eat fast-acting carbohydrates and choose not to drive when their sugar levels were very low, the researchers report in the journal Diabetes Care.

Participants completed the program in 11 weeks on average, logged on to the program about 30 times, and spent about a half-hour on each lesson. The more often patients logged on, the greater their improvements in diabetes management and knowledge, the researchers found.

Importantly, the researchers note, patients also found the program easy and enjoyable to use.

Larger studies with more-diverse groups of patients are needed, according to Cox and his colleagues. But they say the current findings suggest that the Internet program could offer an inexpensive way to reach large numbers of people with diabetes.

SOURCE: Diabetes Care, August 2008.

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