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  • An End to Bloodletting?

Photonics Spectra
Aug 1999
Michael D. Wheeler, News Editor

Each day millions of diabetics perform a ritual, stabbing their fingers with a metal lancet to draw a few drops of blood. After the blood is placed on a test strip, a machine reads the strip and provides a reading in about half a minute.

The discomfort and inconvenience of this finger pricking has led many diabetics to neglect testing -- putting them at risk for serious health problems, including kidney failure, stroke and blindness. It comes as no surprise, then, that many health care providers have sought a less invasive way to test glucose levels. A competitively priced, accurate test would likely capture a significant share of the estimated $2 billion to $3 billion annual glucose monitoring market in the US. And such a test could go a long way in alleviating the $92 billion strain that the American Diabetes Association estimates the disease puts on the US, factoring in treatment costs and lost wages.

For nearly a decade, photonics technology has been behind the hope -- and the hype -- in noninvasive testing. Some companies are working to harness IR wavelengths for reading blood glucose levels. Others are designing systems that are semi-invasive.

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