For the past two weeks I’ve been wearing a Freestyle Libre for the first time. I was so excited when it arrived and bursting to start using it – here’s how I’ve found it so far.
Getting set up
I got the sensor and the reader from Abbott after being on the waiting list for a few months as a self funder. They came with clear, easy to follow instructions. I was worried about the insertion device as it tells you to press down firmly onto your arm so I thought it was going to be a manual insertion and really hurt, but it releases a spring loaded mechanism that inserts it quickly and painlessly. Unfortunately the first sensor I attached was faulty but Abbott customer services sent out a replacement straight away and I had a back up sensor which I inserted onto the other arm and has worked fine.
What I’ve liked…
This piece of kit has delivered on all its promised benefits:
- So easy to scan. My reader says I’ve scanned 25 times a day in the last 7 days! It doesn’t feel like that many but that’s because it is so much easier than finger pricking.
- BG checks on the move. It’s been a revelation testing my BGs while walking the dog or out on country walks.
- BG direction – knowing whether my BGs are stable, rising or falling is information I’ve never had before.
- Discretion – testing in meetings, on trains, in restaurants and through clothes without having to get all the testing kit out and draw blood has been amazing.
- Night time info – I’ve never had a picture of my night time BGs before and I’m so grateful to be able to get this without waking up in the night to test.
- It’s comfortable, pretty discreet, and I haven’t felt self conscious at all while wearing it. I think people have hardly noticed it.
What I’m getting used to…
Having the complete picture of what’s been going on with my BGs makes it very difficult to ignore, dismiss or gloss over the fact that my readings are often out of range (only 44% of time in target). They are right there on the screen, and my BG results have been pretty disappointing during the last two weeks. I’m grateful for the data but it’s given me a load more problems to solve (why do I go high after tea in the morning – is it the milk or the caffeine? Why do I go high in work meetings even when they aren’t stressful? Why do my night time BGs spike many hours after eating?). I’ve also got to learn how to best react to real time information – treating hypos and correcting hypers is normally quite easy but I need to try to anticipate them before they happen. I’m reading Sugar Surfing (this month’s #gbdocbookclub pick) to see if I can get any tips on this.
In the mornings, the reader is the first thing I reach for to get the verdict on how my BGs have been overnight, which still feels like an exciting “reveal” but has also left me feeling frustrated and confused by the apparent randomness of whether I get a straight-ish line in the blue zone or a mountain range that’s all over the place. In the old days when I didn’t have this information, this didn’t really factor into my thinking but now it’s a nightly challenge to try to get right. It doesn’t help that this first two weeks has been during the holidays when I’ve been out of routine, eating out, drinking more wine and exercising at different times.
What I don’t like…
There is quite a bit of variance between the Libre readings and my fingerprick BG tests. Sometimes the Libre readings are over (sometimes by as much as 3mmol/l), sometimes they are under, sometimes they are about the same. It seems from what people are saying on social media that this is quite common. I understand that they aren’t supposed to be exactly the same because they are measuring different fluids which react to changes at different speeds, but I have been surprised by how significant the variance is (I just tested before bed and the Libre said 15, my finger prick test said 11.9). To deal with this, I’m only making treatment decisions (i.e. treating hypos, correcting highs) based on my fingerprick test results. I’m not sure whether this level of variance is normal and to be expected but it does make me question whether what I am seeing on the Libre reader screen is right.
The waste! For a tiny little disc there’s a lot to throw away – the packaging for one sensor seems over the top and I can’t believe the insertion device is single use. Can Abbott think about ways to reduce the waste these things generate?
All in all it’s been a positive two weeks – I have really enjoyed using the Libre and I’m determined not to be disheartened by the rocky BGs it’s showing me. I’m grateful to be able to use the technology and my challenge is to act on this data and get my control into a better place.