Welcome to my review of the new FreeStyle Libre continuous glucose monitor. This page and those to follow will be my original reactions of using the Libre to mange my insulin dependent Type 2 diabetes.
Check out our questions and answers about the FreeStyle Libre system here.
I have officially joined the world of being a cyborg. Part man, part machine, part, totally cool! Noting as crazy as Steve Austin and the Million Dollar Man, however its a start. Today, I welcomed FreeStyle Libre; which is now available in Canada; to help manage my diabetes control, and to the words of my nine year old, “Good luck, I hope it doesn’t bother your body” and a big hug for moral support.
What is FreeStyle Libre?
I am sure you have seen the ads on television and social media, however let me explain. Welcome to the world of continuous glucose monitoring. The Libre is a flash glucose monitoring system that uses a sensor to check your blood sugar levels – the days of routine finger pricks are coming to an end.
The sensor is where the magic lies – a convenient, discrete, easy to use, and user friendly device that you wear for up to 14 days to continuously monitor your glucose levels.
Convenient: The small sensor automatically measures and continuously stores glucose readings day and night. I may finally understand why my morning blood sugar levels are unmanageable.
Discreet: Glucose readings with a painless, one-second scan even through clothing. No more routine finger pricks.
Easy: Swim, shower or exercise — the FreeStyle Libre system is designed to be water-resistant and worn while bathing, showering, swimming or exercising. Once it is installed, for lack of any other appropriate label, the one time use senso can be worn for up to 14 days – literally, according to the manual it will self destruct after 14 days. Time will tell – LOL
User-friendly: With every scan you get your current glucose reading, the last 8 hours of glucose data and an arrow showing the direction your glucose is heading. Up to 8 hours of continuous readings — how did the snack without a small insulin pairing send your levels out of target? With knowledge, comes power, right?
The FreeStyle Libre System
The FreeStyle Libre system comes in two parts: the continuously worn sensor, and a reader.
The FreeStyle Libre sensor as about the size of a quarter, and about two quarters deep. The disposable sensor tracks up to 8 hours of continuous data (so be sure to scan at least one every 8 hours), and a 14 day battery life. The 8 hours of data should not be an issue, we scan once before meals; once two hours later, and once before bed. 7 scans a day, or for me, as soon as I wake up – so 8. 8 finger pricks, plus botched attempts – so 10 finger pricks saved a day!
The cool thing about the Sensor is that it uses the same technology as our debit cards – near field communication (NFC) to speak to the reader. The Libre has its own glucose monitor that we are all familiar with, or you have the option – and this is even more cool. You can also use the NFC technology built into most modern smartphone devices to simply “tap and go”. Imagine a world where you no longer need to carry around your glucose monitor 24/7?
Honestly, It came down to me having three glucose monitors – one for home, one for the office and one to keep in my laptop bag. Who doesn’t carry their phone around with them? Talk about a win. There is a huge caveat here, that I will touch on later. However, for now — let’s go with 90% of the time, you are finger prick clear and you can leave your traditional monitor tucked away.
Wearing the FreeStyle Libre Sensor
Wearing or better said, “installing” the sensor was generally pretty easy. The Sensor is recommended to be installed on the back of your arm, and came in two pieces – the sensor in a sealed container and the applicator.
The packaging looked over kill – however, when you consider this as a piece of equipment that needs to be treated as clean as a surgical room to reduce any signs of infection or irritation we can hold them at fault.
The steps to wearing your sensor:
- Disenfect your application area (back of your arm) with the include alcohol wipes. As diabetics, we know slow circles, starting from the inside working out (lets kill those germs)
- Open the sensor container and the applicator and assmble — watch out of the little needle sticking out of the sensor. This reminds me of one of those stick fly raps — keep your fingers away as the glue is designed to have the sensor survie two weeks of life, exercise, sleeep, clothes, werestling with the kids and loved ones. You name it.
- Press the applicator to your arm and – POP!
Literally that’s it – the pop had a bit of a subtle sting but compared to any other auto injector – i.e. EVIL HUMIRA for my Crohns, this was nothing.
The FreeStyle Libre Reader
As I mentioned earlier, you can either use the FreeStyle Libre Reader to track and monitor your glucose results or a compatible smartphone and the FreeStyle Libre application.
The reader features a touch screen, colour display, trend line with your target range highlighted, and your typical notes section: insulin injection amounts and other information you would like to track.such as grams of food or units of insulin.
The Log Book / history section of the Reader includes:
- Log book
- Daily Graph
- Average Glucose Reading (similar to your A1C)
- Daily Patterns
- Time in target (remember you can potentially be tracking 24 hours of data – this is huge)
- Low glucose events
My only critism – I am use to readers coming with a carrying case and lancer to test your blood traditionally. This reader did not come with either.
IPHONE and ANDROID APP
The FreeStyle Libre system includes an iPhone and Android app. As an Apple user, I have been using the iPhone app which is a great addition to the FreeStyle system.
In addition to the traditional Logbook, the iOS application includes your average daily pattern, including the median, 10-90 percentile range, and 25 and 75 percentile over the next 14, 30, and 90 days, average glucose over a 3 hour period, estimated A1C, and the ability to share data to up to 20 people. Let your family keep you accountable.
Where I have found the Libre system the most beneficial is the ability to visually see how my body responds to different foods, habits, and missing medication. Why is my glucose high, and why is it low.
Abbott describes the app as a mobile app designed to work with FreeStyle Libre Sensors. The app enables you to monitor your glucose using your iPhone or Android phone with a FreeStyle Libre Sensor — there is no need to use a separate blood glucose meter for routine glucose monitoring. When you scan the sensor with a compatible phone that’s running the FreeStyle LibreLink app, your glucose data is displayed directly on that device.
With the app you can:
- View your current glucose reading, a trend arrow, which indicates how your glucose is changing, and the last 8-hours of glucose history
- See glucose reports, including your Ambulatory Glucose Profile, which reveal trends and patterns
- Add notes to track your food, insulin use, exercise, and other events The FreeStyle LibreLink app is a mobile app designed to work with FreeStyle Libre Sensors.
The FreeStyle LibreLink app is compatible with NFC enabled phones running Android OS 5.0 or higher and with iPhone 7 (I only have an iPhone 6 – anyone want to hook me up) and higher running OS 11 and higher.
The FreeStyle Libre Software
The Freestyle Libre software for Windows PC and MAC is intended for use by individuals and health care professionals to aid in the review, analysis, and evaluation of information such as sensor glucose readings, blood glucose test results, blood ketone test results, and other data uploaded from the FreeStyle Libre flash glucose monitoring system, in support of an effective diabetes health management program.
- Using FreeStyle Libre Software, you can gain a deeper understanding of glucose patterns and variability.
- The Ambulatory Glucose Profile summarizes glucose data into percentiles11 throughout the day. It’s a snapshot of a typical day revealing hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia trends.
- The stoplight chart is designed to help you quickly and easily focus on potential trouble spots12 (red and yellow stoplights)
Screen Capture from the Libre Software
I have the software a look the other night – it has potential. I was able to read my readings off of my Libre Reader and start generating custom reports. It was great to see the 24 hour trend lines of my sugars. It will be interesting to see, if at all, you can pull the data off of the LibreLink.
Do I still need to finger prick
Ok, so the bad news. Yes you will still need to fall back to traditional finger pricks with the FreeStyle Libre system if:
- Your glucose reading indicates a low or going low message; or a high message
- Your trending arrow is rising or falling quickly
- Your sensor cannot provide a reading
- Your readings do not match how you are feeling
For convenience, the reader has a spot for traditional test strips. However, this is an added cost. One positive though, all your readings are built into one system.
Who knows – one day Abbott could use traditional finger prick test to better calibrate the Sensor.
How accurate is the Libre Sensor?
According to the manual, in some situations Libre Sensors may give readings that are more than 20% higher or lower than blood glucose. You can test the accuracy of the Sensor by using a traditional finger glucose test with the strip meter at the front of the Libre reader or on another blood glucose monitoring system.
You will know the system is performing correctly if your blood glucose is within 20% of the sensors glucose reading. For example, when the sensor reads 10.0 mmol/l, the blood glucose result from your finger test should be between 8.0 and 12.0 mmol/L.
If the sensor readings are not within the 20% range, consult the quick reference guide. Treatment based on inaccurate results can lead to low glucose or high glucose. However, After using the reader for almost two weeks, I have noticed significant improvement in the accuracy of the reader. It appears that as your body adjusts to the sensor being installed, the reliability of the readings compared to my traditional finger reader have improved significantly.
Questions and Answers about the FreeStyle Libre
I have pulled together some questions and answers about using Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre glucose monitoring system on my Q & A page. Read more about the system here.
Accessories for FreeStyle Libre
As I mentioned, the FreeStyle Libre reader did not come with a case or lancing accessories. The Sensor, although designed to last 14 days is pricey. Here are a few accessories and add-ons you can buy for the FreeStyle Libre.
Overall, I have been impressed with the Libre System.
The sensor is small, discrete and comfortable. The Reader has a large colorful display, and all the features you would hope for. I look forward to learning to work with the system to better manage my diabetes and will be writing more again soon.
As traditional finger glucose tests are not only recommended but required for safe glucose management, it is unfortunate that Abbott requires us to buy those as well. I will need to see if my insurance covers both the sensors and strips or have I maxed out at the customary monthly limit.