Diabetes is a long-term medical condition that affects the body’s ability to process sugars, particularly glucose. The hormones that normally control sugar levels don’t function correctly, leading to sharp peaks and falls in blood glucose. Diabetes can be very serious if it is not treated and can lead to nerve damage, heart disease, stroke and blindness.
For children and teenage diabetics, the consequences are even more severe – juvenile diabetics can die when asleep. While conscious, sufferers can tell when their blood glucose drops and respond appropriately – but this is not possible while they are sleeping. The only current solution is for carers, typically parents, to sleep in the same bedroom as their teenager to avoid the risk that they are found “dead in bed”.
Even where parents sleep in proximity to their diabetic children, it is impossible to tell if blood sugar is dropping until it has reached a critically low level. At this stage the child may even stop breathing and be in need of urgent medical attention. Any technology that could detect hypoglycaemia in its early stages would decrease the risks of such a disease, providing parents with peace of mind and reducing incidents requiring emergency hospitalisation.
A medical device company wants to introduce a product to solve the problem of continuously watching juvenile diabetics. Could technology be used to monitor blood glucose and provide parents and teenagers with more freedom?
Your task is to design and develop a device that can monitor changes in blood sugars and detect early symptoms of falling blood glucose, which could lead to hypoglycaemia. The device must be able to alert the patient and an emergency contact if warning symptoms are detected. Your system must reliably process data in real-time and minimise false alarms.
Can you achieve this without interfering with comfort or preventing a good night’s sleep?
You should explain how your device will work, and specify all parts of your design. In doing this, you may wish to consider a number of factors:
You must decide on a suitable level of accuracy for your device and determine appropriate thresholds for high/low blood-glucose alerts. How will you set these thresholds for individuals?
How will the device monitor blood glucose? Are there any other functions it would be useful for your device to incorporate, or physiological indicators that are appropriate to monitor?
You should think about how your device will communicate with the warning system and what type of warning would alert the patient and their emergency contact.
Durability of the device is an important consideration. It must not be uncomfortable to wear or interfere with sleep or movement, and should not become detached while sleeping. Is it possible to incorporate an alert if the device is detached unexpectedly?
Moving a step beyond a warning system, is it appropriate and possible for your device to perform any remedial action if a problem is detected?