Using a continuous glucose monitor these days can be awesome – blood sugar trends, streaming data to the cloud, the ability to share data with trusted loved ones, upgraded wearability from previous sensors … the list of pros goes on.
But sometimes the benefits of using a CGM can feel overshadowed by the drawbacks of wearing a medical device 24/7. Does your insurance company battle back over coverage? Do you have trouble keeping the device stuck to your skin? Are you intimidated by the idea of wearing a medical device?
Wearing a CGM often requires a little bit of “hacking” to make integration into your life easier and more streamlined. Which is why we turned to the diabetes community – the CGM experts in the field – for advice on practical advice, tips, and tricks for using a CGM. Here’s what the DOC had to say about making the CGM experience better:
Tapes were a popular topic. We’ve written about medical tape options in our summer adhesive roundup, and plenty of PWD chimed in with their favorite options. Jessica said, “[Using] Opsite flexfix and keeping the G4 has saved me a ton of money on sensors. Not being able to restart old sensors has me hesitant to move to the G6. Also arm and calf placement [helps].” Nia offered, “I like StayPut [tape] for extended wear. Grif Grips are good too, but I get longer shelf life with StayPut.”
Calibration is another key issue, especially for folks who are seeing unreliable CGM results. Bill said, “Learn when to calibrate. I try to calibrate when I’m completely flat … not rising or falling.” Amy agreed, adding, “Sometimes dried blood at insertion means poor accuracy the first day. Usually resolved by a shower.” Most CGM manufacturers recommend calibrating if meter results are drastically different from CGM results – consult with your CGM company for details.
Placement for CGMs mattered to a lot of people. Brian said, “Placing sensor on arm. Custom covers for sensor because tape has never worked well for me.” While many CGMs are officially approved for abdomen placement, people with diabetes are wearing their CGM sensors wherever they can get good results and comfortable wear. Kerri wears her CGM sensor exclusively on her thigh. “It’s more out of the way there than on my stomach,” she said. “With waistbands that shift and fluctuate, my stomach is a high traffic area and the sensor wilts off too fast.”
Insertion comfort is a factor, too. While CGM users across the board recommend things like numbing cream, icing the area beforehand, and rotating sites regularly (to decrease scartissue and increase healing), one CWD mom had an interesting take. Stacey said, “If you cough on insertion, everything hurts less. B [teenage son with T1D] has done this for about two years with insets and CGM sites.”
Ease when traveling matters, too. Navigating airport security with diabetes devices can be awkward, but there are things you can do to make your experience easier. Most CGMs won’t alarm during screening, but if you do get pulled for a pat down, be sure to tell the gate agent where your device is on your body so they don’t pull it loose during the screening process. Brian added, “TSA pre-check has made both CGM and Pump less frustrating when traveling.”
Insurance coverage is a tricky hurdle to clear, but the CGM companies have teams that are willing to step in and help. Connect with your CGM manufacturer of choice and ask if they have an insurance assistance department, and you can also check out this advice from the team at Diabetes Forecast, as well as the Integrated Diabetes website.
And sometimes the advice we need most is how to take a breather before reacting to the CGM data. With a steady stream of information coming at you all day long, it can be a little chaotic to manage all that data without feeling overwhelmed. Jaime said, “Try not to overreact to the number you’re seeing and how many up or down arrows. I know if I see two down or two up arrows I panic and either eat, or take, more insulin. Then I end up in a roller coaster. Sometimes it pays off to wait it out!”