3 Things You're Not Told About the FreeStyle Libre

On my 21st birthday I was presented with a Freestyle Libre. It wasn’t a birthday present from the HSE, just good timing. The first blood sugar check was (quite pathetically) exhilarating. No more finger pricks, bloody strips and fumbling through my bag for my blood glucose meter. Plus, I'd finally be able to leave the house with a significantly lighter load (still need the insulin and sweets.) With this technological advance, all you have to do is open the FreeStyle app up on your phone, raise your phone to the sensor on your arm and BAM. Blood sugar has been checked. I tested it wearing 4 layers, it still worked.

All was well and good for the first few months. Then out of the blue, one morning I woke up and realised this little gadget was making me miserable. This confused me, as it’s supposed to be such a breakthrough for the management of Type 1 Diabetes. The thing was that I wasn’t really prepared for it. There’s a few things about the FreeStyle Libre that are important to know and be prepared for before ditching the finger pricks.

1. The Lag and Inaccuracy

The FreeStyle Libre can have a delay in readings. This is because it reads interstitial fluid rather than actual blood. It has been said that there is a delay of 5-15 minutes between the glucose levels in the blood and in the interstitial fluid, so bear this in mind. However, you should also be prepared for inaccuracies. My sensor often told me that my blood sugar levels were higher or lower than they actually were. When a number seems a bit off, it’s always worth double checking with a finger prick. I personally wouldn’t advise completely relying on the readings that the Freestyle Libre gives, I would simply use them as a guideline. Also, be wary of the arrows that pop up beside your reading. If the arrow is pointing up it means that your sugar level is rising rapidly and the opposite for an arrow pointing down. I found that these arrows were often just blatantly untrue, which can be dangerous. Think before you panic-grab the insulin or sweets, as it could be a false alarm.

A handy device that allows for continuous glucose monitoring is the MiaoMiao. It attaches onto the sensor and sends continuous glucose readings to your phone or watch every five minutes and notifies you when your sugars are too high or low. I haven’t got my hands on one yet but it’s on my wish-list. If you click here to purchase, you’ll get 10 dollars off!

2. A LOT of Data

There are two things to be weary of with regards to the Libre's bundles of easily accessible blood sugar information. Firstly, beware of over-checking. You may find yourself beginning to do this, as this device reduces blood sugar checks to one, effortless movement. If you check too often after taking insulin, you could react to a slightly higher number and forget that you still have insulin on board. Speaking from experience, it’s easily done.

Secondly, many diabetics find the continuous sugar level graphs that come with the Freestyle Libre to be incredibly helpful and insightful. I found them quite overwhelming. That graph became the last thing I thought about before going to bed and the first thing on my mind in the morning. I look after myself and my sugar levels. Having said that, I want to be able to live a life without stressing if my sugar levels aren’t in a perfectly straight line all day and night, which is what began to happen. I now realise that at the end of the day, my pancreas doesn’t work and I do its job myself. As hard as I try and as many restrictions I may put on myself, there’s never going to be a dead straight line on that graph. Plus, I like to go out, consume the occasional doughnut and cocktail, do a bit of exercise and basically just live a little. This may lead to a bit of a wibbly wobbly line, which is just fine.

3. The Application is Tough

The Freestyle Libre’s application is tough and in my opinion, doesn’t get much easier. The Youtube tutorials of how to apply it remind me of Veet waxing advertisements. Nobody waxes their legs in one smooth, pleasant movement, and the same goes for clamping this actual yoke onto your arm. The whole house knew when it was application time because there was always a hoo-haw about it. Lots of dramatic squeals and swear words. On the plus side, it only has to be done once every 2 weeks, so it’s tolerable. Be careful when you’re pulling the applicator away from the sensor once the sensor is on your arm, it can often get stuck and pull out the wire in the sensor. This is incredibly uncomfortable, trust me. I’ve also had many sensors that I've applied at an awkward angle. This led to it being ripped off, wasting an (expensive) sensor. Lastly, faulty sensors that get jammed are common. When I came across one of these, I brought them back to my pharmacy and got a replacement.

Despite these three points, I’m going to return to use the FreeStyle Libre. With the right mindset and preparation it’s definitely an asset for diabetes control. What are your opinions of the FreeStyle Libre? Let me know! Hope this was helpful. x

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