Noninvasive and minimally invasive methods for transdermal glucose monitoring

Diabetes Technol Ther. 2005 Feb;7(1):174-97. doi: 10.1089/dia.2005.7.174.


Noninvasive and minimally invasive techniques for monitoring glucose via the skin are reviewed. These approaches rely either on the interaction of electromagnetic radiation with the tissue or on the extraction of fluid across the barrier. The structure and physiology of the skin make the technical realization of transdermal glucose monitoring a difficult challenge. The techniques involving transdermal fluid extraction circumvent and/or compromise the barrier function of skin's outermost and least permeable layer, the stratum corneum, by the application of physical energy. While sonophoresis and microporation methods, for example, are in relatively early-stage development, a device using reverse iontophoresis [the GlucoWatch Biographer (Cygnus, Inc., Redwood City, CA)] is already commercially available. Optical techniques to monitor glucose are truly noninvasive. The tissue is irradiated, the absorbed or scattered radiation is analyzed, and the information is processed, to provide a measure proportional to the concentration of glucose in the dermal tissue. These techniques include near-infrared and Raman spectroscopy, polarimetry, light scattering, and photoacoustic spectroscopy. By contrast, impedance spectroscopy measures changes in the dielectric properties of the tissue induced by blood glucose variation. Large-scale studies in support of efficacy of these methodologies are as yet unavailable. At present, therefore, transdermal fluid extraction technologies are offering greater promise in terms of practical and realizable devices for patient use. The truly noninvasive allure of the optical approach assures continued and intense research activity--for the moment, however, an affordable, efficient, and portable system is not on the immediate horizon.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Biosensing Techniques
  • Blood Glucose / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Microcirculation
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / instrumentation
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / methods
  • Regression Analysis
  • Skin / blood supply


  • Blood Glucose