FreeStyle Libre Improved My Diabetes Management
Being introduced to continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) technology can be like entering a whole new world for people with type 2 diabetes, who have historically faced difficulties obtaining these devices. The opportunity to have your data at your fingertips and see how your blood glucose changes throughout the day and night can be eye-opening. At least, this is how the blogger of DiabeticFoodie, Shelby Kinnaird, perceived it. Shelby, who’s had type 2 diabetes for nearly 20 years, started wearing the FreeStyle Libre 14 day system early 2019. She heard others in her group at DiabetesSisters discussing their own experiences and decided to try it for herself.
“I really didn’t know what to expect. I heard it from women in my DiabetesSisters group what the CGM experience was like. But I think until you actually use it, you don’t realize how helpful it is. I don’t think I had a really good appreciation for how much data it was going to give me and how much it was going to tell me [about my diabetes],” says Shelby.
Shelby decided to try out the CGM device because she was experiencing the “dawn phenomenon,” a term used to describe an abnormal rise in blood glucose (BG) levels in many people with diabetes between the hours of approximately 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. Most researchers believe this effect to be the result of hormone surges—the body’s overnight release of cortisol, glucagon and epinephrine, which all increase insulin resistance. The phenomenon could also be in part due to management factors such as high carb consumption before bedtime or insufficient insulin dosages.
“I wanted to see what happened between 3 a.m. and the time I got up. Then I found it to be so beneficial. I started basically using it all the time. I’ve pretty much been using it with maybe the exception of a week here or there since I got it,” Shelby explains.
Features of the FreeStyle Libre include:
- Storage of up to 90 days of data.
- A trend arrow showing the direction of blood glucose
- The ability to share your glucose readings with up to 20 people
- Accuracy for insulin-dosing
- No finger-stick calibration needed
Wearing a CGM has its behavioral benefits. Instead of using a single traditional test-strip reading, the continuous graphs can help you identify various factors that affect blood glucose. Knowing those factors help users make the necessary changes to reach their ideal blood glucose numbers.
“I’ve learned, for example, that if I eat a big lunch and a small dinner, my dawn effect symptoms seem to be less. So my blood sugar is better when I get up in the morning,” shares Shelby. “I have learned that certain foods that I thought were okay cause me to spike and that certain foods that I thought would cause me to have a spike don’t. For example, when I ate bread I always picked whole grain bread. One time, I just happened to have a piece of sourdough bread. Well, the sourdough affects my blood sugar much less than the whole grain bread does. It’s little things like that I’ve learned.”
Before she started wearing the Libre, Shelby pricked her fingers first thing in the morning and before and after exercise. She would also check after meals, but wasn’t very consistent doing it. Now that she has the Libre, she scans just to have extra data in her hands.
Some of Shelby’s favorite features of the FreeStyle Libre are the time-in-range feature and the ability to view 90-days worth of data. It helps her set expectations for what her A1C would be. She also likes being able to download and print graphs of her patterns to take with her to doctor’s appointments.
Finally, Shelby likes that the device is so easy to wear that she often forgets it’s on her arm. “At first, I was like what’s going to happen when I take a shower. But I don’t even think about it anymore,” said Shelby. “In fact, somebody said the other day they didn’t wear the Libre and wore another CGM. They said every time they knock into a doorway, it falls off. That has never happened to me.”
Is It Worth It?
We don’t blame you if this question has popped up in your head more than a few times. CGMs can be pricey, even with insurance, and people with type 2 diabetes face difficulties getting approved by their insurance companies to obtain one. Growing evidence shows the benefits of CGM usage by people with type 2 diabetes, even those on oral medication. Currently, Shelby pays out-of-pocket for Freestyle Libre sensors.
Initially, Shelby’s doctor didn’t offer the device because he knew her insurance company wouldn’t cover it. However, fortunately for her, her doctor was completely on board with her using the Freestyle Libre.
“He was thrilled to give it to me. He said he had had a type 2 patient whose A1C went from somewhere in the 11-12 range to a 6-6.5 range. And the only change this person made was using the Libre,” said Shelby.
The experience has also made her doctor’s appointments more productive. Being able to have more data about her diabetes has allowed her to ask more poignant questions at her visits.
“I have never been shy about asking questions in the doctor’s office. So I don’t know that it has been a big change in that sense for me. But it has made my visits more productive in the sense of I now have sort of more specific questions than I used to,” said Shelby. ‘’Hey, look at what [my blood glucose] did on this date, why did this happen?’ or ‘I did this kind of exercise instead of that kind of exercise and look at the difference.’ I wouldn’t have that level of detail to be able to ask about if I wasn’t using the CGM.”
Beyond Type 2 encourages people living with diabetes to use your voice to broach the subject about trying a CGM, even if it’s a professional CGM. Research supports wearing a CGM even once can have a lasting positive impact on your diabetes routine and overall health.
An Opportunity to Educate Others
Wearing the FreeStyle Libre has certainly become a conversation-starter with strangers. She’s gotten questions about it from people without diabetes. Recently, she went on a cruise where a fellow passenger asked if it was a device to prevent seasickness. Shelby uses these opportunities to educate them about diabetes.
Their reaction? Shelby says, “they were just floored that technology existed because diabetes is not their world. So I think it gives you a good educational opportunity to teach people what it is and that it exists. So I think that’s pretty cool.”
Shelby also thinks the use of the FreeStyle Libre by people with type 2 diabetes can be beneficial, even if they wear it once or on a periodic basis. Also, she believes wearing a CGM can be used as a preventative measure for people with prediabetes and as an early intervention for newly diagnosed type 2s.
“You don’t have to wear it all the time. Wear it for 14 days and see what happens. You’ll say ‘these are my triggers, this is the stuff I should do differently.’ Then you’ve got specific things to work on and discuss with your doctor,” she says.
To sum up her experience with the switch from primarily using fingersticks to wearing the FreeStyle Libre, Shelby says “it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for my diabetes management.”
This content was sponsored by Abbott, the makers of the FreeStyle Libre 2, a Founding Partner of Beyond Type 2.