Is there any more iconic symbol for diabetes than a drop of blood on a finger? Throughout my diabetes career––yes, it’s work––piercing my finger with a lancet and placing a drop of blood on a test strip has been the constant reminder that I am tethered to a disease that is much bigger than I am.
In the past, when I’ve read about continuous glucose monitors (CGM), it always sounded bulky and uncomfortable. I wasn’t eager to get one. And today people are touting the bionic pancreas as the answer to all of our dreams, but being bionic doesn’t appeal to me either. I’ve also read about contacts that Google is working on with Novartis. The contacts will use tear fluid to obtain blood sugar readings that will be wirelessly transmitted to a smart phone. When I found out how long it would be before the contacts were released, 5-10 years, I shrugged it off as another sign that my work would continue.
When I first spotted the FreeStyle Libre from Abbott, my initial thought was that it looked tiny––the size of a quarter, and friendly––approachable and simple. I wanted it, but the problem then was that it was only available in Europe. (The Pro version is available in the U.S. and the company is actively working towards FDA approval for the personal version.) I decided I needed to try and get my hands on one.
As I wondered who to ask for help, I read more. The meter and matching sensor aren’t labeled a CGM because you have to scan the sensor to see your numbers, rather than numbers automatically being logged and recorded. Abbott calls its device a Flash Glucose Monitoring system. They do essentially the same thing, so, whatever, I call it a CGM. The Abbott device doesn’t have an alarm. I know that not everyone knows when they’re high or low. Since I do, I knew the Libre would work well for me.
I realized I finally had my in when a close friend moved to Milan. “Can you do this for me?” I inquired about the daunting task of ordering sensors online, waiting for the delivery, repackaging the sensors and mailing it to the U.S. I was asking a lot. “Sure,” she said. It helped that I was visiting her in Italy, and that we made that first online order together. (If you browse to the FreeStyle Libre European site from any IP in the U.S. you will be promptly denied.)
The first batch arrived in April 2016, but not before there were several panic attacks when the Italian post office asked for letters from my doctor describing what was in the box. I imagined an old woman with a cigarette between her thin lips. I said to my friend: “Tell them it’s diabetes material and electronics.” What we were doing was not illegal, but it felt suspicious. I did it with glee, my friend, not so much. I typed up a letter on my computer and emailed it over to her. It worked!
While I’ve seen some other CGMs in development that require you to go to your doctor’s office to have a sensor inserted under the skin (sounds awful), the Abbott FreeStyle Libre can be attached at home, with zero help. It’s foolproof. Each sensor lasts fourteen days, is waterproof and––I work out a lot––sweat proof. The data can be downloaded to your computer whenever you want.
That day when I could finally toss my old glucose monitor out the window (figuratively) was huge. Despite being diligent about taking readings, I never took enough to know where my numbers were trending––up, down, level––information that would require me to test over four times in a single hour. Forget it.
After trying it in a few places, today I proudly flash my FreeStyle Libre on the inside of my bicep. When I wore it on the outside of my arm, I found that it would get caught on backpack straps or a towel when I came out of the shower. Soon there will be an app for my iPhone––there’s already an Android version––but until then I’m using the Abbott monitor. It’s about half the size of a phone. At the beginning, I tested often with my One Touch Ultra to see how accurate it was. Once I was sure it was on target, I stopped toting around the extra monitor. Today I swipe constantly. I love knowing what is going on, seeing exactly when a meal will hit my blood sugar and learning which foods are best—the ones that don’t cause spikes or stay in me for extended time periods. Getting access to 24/7 data on my body was, to be cliché, a game changer, and I couldn’t wait to see my first A1C.
With my newfound passion for continuous data on my blood sugar, I talked to other people that wore the FreeStyle Libre, like 45-year old Holger Schmeken from Germany. Schmeken has type 1 diabetes and is on his 47th sensor. (Yes, he’s counting.) “The reliability of the sensor data is very high. In fact it’s more accurate than any glucose meter I have ever owned in over 25 years. This made it easy for me to make the big step: trusting the Libre for dosage decisions.” Schmeken is also a software developer and created Glucosurfer, a site for people to upload and share medical data. (He may be more passionate than me.)
Speaking of numbers, Abbott recently announced a direct correlation between a higher frequency of monitoring and better blood glucose control. Abbott looked at 50,000 FreeStyle Libre users in Europe and found that “people who scan more frequently using its FreeStyle Libre system spend less time in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) while having improved average glucose levels.” I can definitely vouch for that. My AIC has already dropped below 7.0% and I’m looking forward to seeing it hit 6.5% soon.
Do you know if there is any way to download the results onto the computer so that I can bring these into my GP. They don’t carry a reader and don’t want to invest in one. If I could download the results, that would be great.
Where can I get the Freestyle Libra 14 day reader? My US pharmacy accidentally gave me the wrong one. I’m told I can purchase one in Canada without a Rx.
Your response is greatly appreciated.
Does anyone know how to work out without it coming off? I am on day 3 of my first sensor and just finished my first workout and it’s already starting to lift from my skin…yes I sweat a lot during my workouts and yes I used a tegaderm patch, which came off. I know Larissa said she worked out and this was sweatproof…
I use the simpatch that you can order on amazon. I work out daily, and I have not had any issues with it coming off at any point during the 10 days. Abbott specifically says the Libre is not designed for use with anything covering it, but I have not had any issues with accuracy to finger sticks.
I recently got a prescription from my doctor for FreeStyle Libre? What I got was the sensor but not the reader. Do I need a separate prescription for the reader or did the pharmacy short-change me?
Hello, So if you don’t mind me asking, after a year, how do you like the Libre?
I like it. I’ve been wearing one for 16 days, with one sensor change. Glucose checking is easy. The first sensor was a little uncomfortable like the pain of a flu shot injection, but the second sensor was no pain at all. I check my glucose about 5 times a day now. Great device.
Like Larissa I used to get my Libre supplies from Europe shipped to the US. They cost me a fortune but I got hooked! Does anyone know if my new US sensors will still activate and read with a German/Dutch reader? They are both using mg/dl. The US sensor are still costly so I don’t want to waste my first one just trying. Thx!
I started using Libre Pro from the last 3 days. When i read the Sensor data and try to view the reading, the reading is shown in a Graphical format. It would be convinient if the BG level flashes directly say “120 mg/dl”. But the graphical pattern takes time to analyse the readings on the graph. The only use i find is to have an understanding of the BG levels when you try different foods.
Mine (in the United States) comes up with a reading such as 100 or 134, etc. Perhaps you are on a different page. You want to be on the “home” page. There are other pages in the menu that have graphs, etc.
I want the engineers to take this one small step further. I want to see my levels pop onto the screen of my computer, and I want to set the time intervals on screen. I want an application that will take the readings as I sit at my computer and pop up on my screen in a small window. I want it to work with a USB dongle like a wireless mouse. The connection is established by the use of a USB dongle and the software would be a quick and easy download. The software works with the USB dongle… Read more »
Great idea :D I’m a software engineer and a Type 1 diabetic. As soon as I can get mine, I’m going to see what data is available and can develop this if the data supports it. While it might take more than a day, it certainly sounds plausible. :D
Hello Austin. Did you get you Freestyle Libre and did u get time to work on it. Eagerly waiting for an update. Will that be efficient even with Libre Pro(as i am using Libre Pro…which does not flash any BG level on the screen of the reader)
I used to work at ADC and am very knowledgeable about the Libre Flash Glucose Monitor. It is not approved for using the flash results for determining medication (e.g. insulin) dosage. You’re on your own for this. You can use the same strips as are used in the Precision Neo monitor. The interstitial fluid readings are subject to a delay but the Libre monitor has an algorithm that, based on the current reading and trend, calculates a result that approximates a reading you’d get with a finger stick test. Depending upon which country you obtain your Libre monitor from, it… Read more »
I install my sensor two days before I start it. This eliminates the first couple of days where the sensor can be reading too low.
Inserting the sensor and then waiting two days before starting it is considered off-label use. During these two days there is no bias voltage on the sensor tip and there is a concern that it would get “clogged”. You are also adding two more days that the adhesive must hold the puck on your arm and so it may fall off before you get full usage. Your mileage may vary. Note that the version of Libre sold (by prescription only) in the U.S. gives no reading for the first day versus 1 hour in units sold outside U.S. This was… Read more »
Hi, Lance. I was wondering if you could explain more about your comment resharing the use of Precision Neo strips with the Libre.
Abbott Diabetes Care makes two kinds of meters and strips: “Freestyle” and “Precision”. The “FreeStyle” strips come in a vial usually containing 50 strips. The “Precision” strips come in individual foil packets. Strips are not interchangeable between the two meter types. In spite of what the labeling of the strips may say, any precision strip can be used in their Xtra, Neo or Libre meters. In addition to the glucose strips, Abbott also sells ketone strips that can be used in precision type meters. Ketone strips are not easy to find and most pharmacies don’t even know they are available.… Read more »
Concept is great, but… Used for over 8 months, sourced from friend in the UK. For me accuracy fluctuated widely. Not an issue if in UK and could get sensor replaced by Abbott. Big issue if in US and have friend shipping sensors. Dealt with inaccurate results but still used meter to dose. Last straw for me was after 6 month of no issues I developed a contact dermatitis to the adhesive. The Sensor would itch and leave a red welt on my arm. So this may be right for you but the article does not reflect everyone’s use. Others… Read more »