Several women in my DiabetesSisters support group use continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) and many swear they couldn’t live without them. The last time I saw my endocrinologist, I asked whether a CGM would be a good idea for me. He raved about the FreeStyle Libre and said many of his patients were able to significantly reduce their A1C by using it. He said it simply made them more aware of the effect of different foods on their blood glucose (BG).
My doctor wrote me a prescription but said that insurance likely wouldn’t cover it because I don’t take insulin. He also gave me a discount card from SingleCare and said their website would allow me to compare prices if I ended up paying for it myself.
How does the FreeStyle Libre work?
The prescription sat on my desk for a couple of months, but I finally did the research and got it filled. I paid $65 for the reader (a one-time cost) and $75 for two sensors (a 28-day supply). The FreeStyle Libre is really two parts: the sensor and the reader. The sensor is the round disk you place on the back of your arm. The reader is what you wave over the sensor to take a BG reading. Once you take a reading, you’ll see a graph of what your BG has been doing for the last eight hours. (You can scroll back to see data for other days too.)
Attaching the Sensor
Step 1 is to attach the sensor to your arm. You pick a good spot and clean it with an alcohol wipe. Then you attach the sensor to the applicator, place it on your arm, and push. That’s all there is to it. I didn’t feel a thing.
Taking a Reading
After you attach the sensor, you’ll need to pair it with the reader. After waiting for an hour, you’ll be able to check your BG. You just push a button to turn the reader on and then hold it over the sensor. The reader will immediately show your current reading and an arrow indicating whether your BG is holding steady or heading up or down. It will also show a graph of your current and past readings. You can also download the LibreLink app and take readings with your phone. I’ve found that the reader and the phone pretty much give the same reading. I prefer to use the phone because (a) I usually have it with me, and (b) it allows me to type in notes with each reading.
The reader and the phone app have several options for viewing your history. You can check your logbook, a daily graph, your average BG at different times of the day, your daily patterns, your time in target, and all low BG events. I have read that the FreeStyle Libre isn’t as accurate as other meters, but I’m more interested in trends rather than actual numbers. (If you take insulin, this probably won’t be true for you.)
What I’ve Learned
I really do love the FreeStyle Libre so far and even forget I’m wearing it. The first time I showered, I was startled when accidentally touched it. For some reason, I thought I was going to need to expose my arm to take a reading, but it works just fine through clothing. Here’s some info I’ve been able to learn about my BG patterns:
- When I eat at home, I get a brief spike and then my BG comes back down after an hour or so. When I eat out, my BG goes up and stays up for several hours (even when I think I’m making good choices).
- My BG starts to rise around 3 am when I’m sleeping and haven’t had anything to eat. (I have long suspected the Dawn Phenomenon.)
- After I get up in the morning, my BG continues going up until I eat, then it spikes, and finally goes down.
- I get a nice dip after I exercise.
- My BG usually peaks for the day after dinner. (I assume this means I should eat more for lunch and less for dinner.)
- I tend to go out of range when I snack too much, especially if it’s close to mealtime.
What I Like So Far
- I’m definitely paying more attention to my BG.
- I love having access to all of the data.
- No finger sticks or test strip disposal to worry about.
- I can check my BG with my phone instead of having to carry around another device.
- It’s easy to keep track of “Time in Range” which is just as important as A1C for diabetes management.
- I can test easily before I even get out of bed.
What Could Be Improved
- Getting the sensor off my arm was difficult. That tape is like glue!
- The first 12 hours worth of data from a new sensor may not be accurate. For example, it reported my BG went into the 30s overnight (which never happens). To be fair, the device does indicate when a reading might be unreliable and suggests testing with another meter.
- You have to remember to scan every eight hours or you will lose data.
- The first sensor was painless, but I have felt a bruise-like sensation since attaching the second one. I’m not sure what I did differently.
If your A1C is higher than you’d like, you don’t take your BG often, you hate finger sticks, and/or you love analyzing data, I highly recommend asking your doctor about the FreeStyle Libre or another CGM. Check to see if your insurance will cover it and shop around for the best price.