Diabetes Fingers

Grateful for advances in lancing technology that make fingers feel less diabetic.


straightup-hireswith Amy Tenderich


Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!

June 2008 —Fingersticks are a way of life with diabetes. Despite new continuous monitors coming out that test your blood sugar using sensors placed on your belly or shoulders, we're all still poking our fingers to keep this new technology on track and assure accurate readings.

The finger poking and bleeding is one of the things about diabetes that make my friends and family feel most sorry for me. Part of me is incensed by this, spurring a longing to shout out "it's not that big a deal!" But on the other hand (no pun intended), I sure could do without it.

I was pretty shocked when I recently noticed how pocked and calloused my fingers have become, after just four years with diabetes. What about all those "lifers" out there, poking their fingers all day long for 10, 20, 30 years or more? What about children, facing a lifetime of tiny finger wounds?

Lucky for us, there are a number of companies out there working to refine lancing technology to "save our skin." As I mentioned last month, I've been testing the Pelikan Sun, the world's first electronic and completely painless diabetes lancing device. Sure enough, after a month of use, the calluses and little black dots (where the blood was trapped under thickening skin) on my fingers had all but disappeared. The interesting thing was that BOTH hands had improved, even though I only used the Pelikan on the right.

What do I attribute this to? Improved technique, for the most part – gained once again from the wisdom of the crowds. A number of readers wrote to me with tips and suggestions for lancing, some of which hadn't ever crossed my mind.

Top Tips
First, did you know that you're only supposed to prick your fingers on the sides, rather than on the fingertip "pads"? The sides of your fingers apparently have fewer nerve endings (but just as good blood flow), so you don't develop so much scar tissue there.

Second, a number of folks reminded me that finger damage results mainly from dull lancets that have been used too many times (the dull needles tear the tissue instead of making a clean puncture). Let's be honest: how often do we really bother to plug in a fresh lancet needle? Note to self: try to do this once a day.

Third, your choice of tools really matters. You do not have to settle for the lancing device that came packaged with your meter. Traditional lancing devices are spring-loaded, which means they "slam against the skin," especially if you haven't set the depth of penetration correctly (all devices have a little wheel to adjust this). Also, the tiny 33 gauge lancet needles now available from BD make a huge difference in reducing the wear and tear on your fingers.

As noted, our choices of lancing tools are expanding greatly as a number of companies recognize this market niche. The MultiClix device from Roche is very popular. The tiny lancet provided with AgaMatrix's new Keynote meter is just extremely cool. And Can-Am Care's new Renew lancing "disk" is nicely compact and pretty darn painless.

Real or Imagined?
This brings us back to Pelikan Technologies, with their racy new electronic device. They recently partnered with insulin-maker Eli Lilly & Co. to launch a campaign around "improved finger health for diabetics." The campaign is supposed to "create awareness" and encourage patients to test more often.

Yikes! "Finger health" does sound like just another thing to worry about with diabetes. In fact, skeptics believe this joint campaign was simply concocted to drive more product sales.

While I'm certainly a skeptic myself – I surely get the notion of "some enterprising marketer hit(ting) upon a way to get people clamoring for some related treatment they hadn't previously known they needed" – I do wonder if the author of that piece has diabetes himself.

In all honesty, I don't know about the long-term effects of "finger health" and whether I ought to be worried. But I do know that the comfort issue with pricking your fingers up to a dozen times a day is HUGE for me, and it's HUGE for so many parents of children with type 1 diabetes.

I hated those calluses and those little black spots. I hated having to keep cranking my lancing device up to top velocity and then jabbing myself over and over just to draw blood, because my fingers were so scarred. I, for one, am very grateful for any advances in lancing technology that make my fingers feel "less diabetic."

* Amy Tenderich is co-author of the new book, Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes. Read more about Amy Tenderich.

dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.


Last Modified Date: June 10, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Brenda Bell
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