I have been using the FreeStyle Libre glucose monitoring system (CGM) since December 2018. Here are some questions I had myself before considering the switch from my OneTouch system and some of the answers I came up with or have come to understand using the Libre glucose monitoring system.  Hopefully this information will helpful to diabetics like me (read my story) that are considering using this system.

For information about the FreeStyle Libre read my original post here.

Do I need to still use a finger based glucometer

On occasion, yes.  The Libre app will recommend you do a finger based test if your sugars have had a drastic change; are really high; or very low.  At most, I would say I have to do a finger test a few times a week.

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

The FreeStyle Libre reader can scan both your sensor (fingerless scans) and has the ability to do finger / blood based scans. Personally, I use my iPhone 8 over the Libre reader (although I have both) – after all, we always carry our phones with us, why lug around a glucose monitor as well.  However, I fall back to my old OneTouch for finger tests as 1) I had three units (home, office, and roaming) and 2) I had an existing prescription for the test strips.

How often do I need to scan the sensor?

The sensor holds 8 hours worth of data and then starts to overwrite the oldest readings. Personally, I would argue 8 hours is not long enough.  However, despite this comment, in reality 8 hours isn’t too bad.

We test our glucose before breakfast; lunch and dinner which is well below 8 hours between the three. I also scan before bed for my long-lasting insulin injection.  So – 4 scans a day as a minimum – 24 hr / 4 scans = 6 hrs.

Where I find the sensors 8 hour window fails me is over night.  I admit it, I enjoy sleeping in.  8 hours is not long enough as I always seem to have a gap between my bedtime scan and my morning scan for any time over the 8 hours.  Is this the end of the world, not really as you would expect a slow and steady downward trend as my long lasting insulin does its work.

The OCD in me hates the missing data.

What do I love the most about my Freestyle Libre?

Learn How your Diabetes Responds to Food
Freestyle Libre (Canada) – Biohacking how food impacts your diabetes. (Thanks to @LynnReviews for the Sushi Pic)

Not having to finger prick myself several times a day is a total bonus.  However, what I love the most about my FreeStyle Libre is the biohacking.  How did my body respond to this food or that food.  Take the picture on the right as a great example. This picture was pulled from my iPhone Libre App that shows the last 24 hours of continuous glucose monitoring.

For the most part I was behaving that morning and had great number over night. Then hello lunch. A group of us from work decided to go for sushi. Even worse – all you can eat sushi. You know what that means right? GORGE!!!!! Look at that spike (and that was with a dose of insulin – looks like I underestimated the carbohydrate intake with that meal. Needless to say, I know better for next time we decide on Sushi for a work event. It wasn’t until almost 9 PM (9 hours after lunch began that I was able to get my sugars back on tack.

With the Libre system or any continuous glucose monitoring system – pay close attention to your spikes and your gentle waves. How does a protein with your fruits keep your sugars down compared to fruits alone? Do you find you spike more aggressively with one food over another? With knowledge come power or in our case control over our chronic illness.

This will be one question I will be bringing to my diabetes clinic – should I have waited until dinner to try to get my numbers back on tack or was there a more proactive means.

How frequently do I need to change my sensor?

The FreeStyle Libre sensors last exactly 14 days from when it was activated will need to be replaced.  Both the iOS and Android phone App and the Libre Reader have a countdown timervin them as as a constant reminder.

My only comment is that when the sensor expires, you lose any data between the last time you scanned the sensor and the expiry. It literally self destructs like a spy movie.  Well, without the explosion.

March 2019: I just replaced my sensor the other day, it looks like the latest software update for IOS captured the time between my last scan and the expired sensor. I will test this again in 2 weeks time.

Does the FreeStyle Libre Sensor really last 14 days

I admit, I am only on week 9 (5th sensor) of using the system, however, I have yet to need to remove a sensor before the 14 day mark.  That being said, it is winter in Canada and I have a phobia of slipping and falling on ice so my running KM has been limited and the sensor has not been exposed to excessive sweat.

It will be interesting to see how well the sensor holds up in the summer, between sweat, exercise, and just overall life.   I do notice that the adhesive does begin to lift away from my skin around the outside of the sensor at about the 10 day mark. There are a few solutions to this:

  •  Amazon has several pre-manufactured sticky pads that you can place over top.  See them at my Amazon Store here.
  • Make your own sticky pad – this is my preferred choice. As an athlete I have tones of Kinesiology Tape.  I cut a small piece, and place it over-top of the sensor for the last 3 or 4 days.
  • I have summarized 4 steps that I use to help prevent my FreeStyle Libre from falling off before the 14 day expiry here.

How Well does the Libre App for iOS and Android work

Overall, I have little or no complaints. I do love data – and it is a bit disappointing that the iOS version locks my data away and doesn’t share nicely with other apps.

Remember, the FreeStyle LibreLink app is compatible with NFC enabled phones running Android OS 5.0 or higher and with iPhone 7 (My Libre was a great reason to upgrade my iPhone 6 to an 8) and higher running OS 11 and higher.

Improvements to the IOS version could include:

  •  Allowing blood glucose readings to be added to Apple Health App.  The Health app does not need 100% of the data; I would be happy with the break points of when I have scanned the sensor- similar to what goes into the log book.
  • Ability to import older glucose readings from a text / csv file
  • Ability to export glucose readings to a text / csv file.  This one would not be needed if the data was in the Health App as there are several other applications available to assist in exporting data from the Apple Health App.

We are still waiting on an official Android Libre App here in Canada. 🙁 See below for some helpful tips for Android users. Yes, there is hope.

Does the Freestyle Libre need your phone to be close or always on to capture glucose data?

The Freestyle Libre sensor captures data 24 hours a day without needing your iPhone. Look at the sensor as an independent device – your phone or the Libre glucose meter only needs to be around once every 8 hours to download your stored data. Otherwise they are two independent devices. That being said you can scan the sensor as frequently as you want.

Can I share my Glucose Readings with my family?

One great feature of the App is that you can be held accountable and give a family member access to your results via a small app.

They can check in on your levels at any time and scold you.  You can also share this data with your healthcare provider; if they have registered with FreeStyle.

Is the FreeStyle Libre System covered under private health insurance in Canada

Yes!  Almost 100% of the cost of my sensors is covered by my medical / prescription health insurance provided by my employer.  What I did notice is that there is a significant range in costs between pharmacies. I have also read in many usergroups that some insurance companies are only covering the Libre System if you use insulin to manage your diabetes. That being said, contact your insurance provider to double check.

Although you are not obligated to use Abbott’s official pharmacy for the FreeStyle Libre system, they do appear to have the best price for both the sensors and the reader.

When I was trying to activate my first prescription, I was advised by them that my doctor needed to send the prescription directly them despite me already having a paper prescription.

As I already had a paper copy, I simply went to my community pharmacy which was able to get both the sensor and reader in for the next morning (I was my pharmacies first patient to give the system a try.).

Where do I get the FreeStyle Libre System in Canada

You can get the FreeStyle Libre from your local pharmacy (mine was able to order in the sensor and the reader) for the next morning.

There is also an official pharmacy for the Free Style Libre that is listed on the FreeStyle Canada website.  If you are living outside of Canada, check your local FreeStyle website for pharmacy locations.

Can I use my phone as well as the FreeStyle Libre Reader

YES!  Absolutely — I have both an iPhone and the Libre Reader – and they work interchangeably.  However, here is what you need to consider:

  1.  When activating a new sensor, first scan the Libre Reader – then scan your phone
  2.  Both scanners work independently – so if you wanted to aim for 100% of data in both devices, you would need to scan both your phone and the Libre Reader regularly.
  3. As of Summer 2019 – only the iPhone is officially supported here in Canada. See below for some unofficial and unsupported ways to get the Libre to work on Android Devices.

How large is the Freestyle Libre Sensor

The Freestyle Libre sensor is discrete and very comfortable the sensor can easily be worn under the most clothing. The Libre sensor is slightly larger than a quarter and about as thick as two coins.

Freestyle Libre is about the size of a quarter.

Freestyle Libre: as small as a quarter

Can I use my Android Phone with Freestyle Libre

LFreestyle Libre works great would my iPhone (iPhone 7 or newer). Officially, the system is currently not available for Android phones. I inquired with Abbott Canada regarding using the Libre with an Android device and here is there response:

”Countries have different requirements and registration timelines. We’re working to make the Android app available in Canada, but cannot commit to specific timing at this point” – May 2019

Many Android users have had great success using FreeStyle Libre on their Android phone with the following Unofficial apps. As an iPhone user I have not tested them.

GLIMP – An Android app for managing diabetes, compatible with Abbott Freestyle Libre, Libre Pro, MiaoMiao and BluCon sensors.

Functionalities:

  • Memorize blood glucose levels
  • Acquires glucose values from Abbott Freestyle Libre sensor without Abbott reader
  • Memorize insulin units, carbohydrates and sport activities
  • Remote Glucose Monitoring via Dropbox and Nightscout
  • Smartwatch app (requires an NFC-open smartwatch)

Diabetes M – The application tracks almost all aspects of the diabetes treatment and provides you and with detailed reports, charts and statistics. You can send the reports to your supervising physician via email. Diabetes:M also gives you various tools, so you can find the trends in blood glucose levels and allows you to calculate normal and prolonged insulin boluses using its highly effective, top-notch bolus calculator.

Functionalities:

  • Smart Watch Compatible
  • Bolus Calculator
  • Food Database
  • Analytical Charts
  • Reporting and import / export
  • Android and iOS Versions

Nightscout xDrip+ – Attempting to ease the burden of diabetes management through automation technology. Providing proof of concept tools to further research goals and inspire the next generation of systems.

Functionalities:

  • Voice, Keypad or Watch input of Treatments (Insulin/Carbs/Notes)
  • Visualization of Insulin and Carb action curves + Undo/Redo
  • Improved alerts and predictive low forecasting feature
  • Instant data synchronization between phones and tablets
  • Support for many different data sources

Do you have more questions about the FreeStyle Libre Glucose reader?

As I come up with more hints and tips about the FreeStyle Libre system I will be sure to add them here. Feel free to leave a comment below with any questions you may have and I will be sure to answer them.

5 COMMENTS

  1. My husband put a new one and he checked it at 3:30 pm. He tried again an hour later and it said wait 10 hours. What’s up with that?

  2. My husband is trying the Free Style Libra. The first time he used it, it only lasted 4 days. The second lasted ten days. This new one is not registering and it is the first day he has used it. It is saying try again later. Have other people had these problems?

    • I can say that your husbands experiences are certainly rare, so don’t give up – it’s an incredible system. I have been using Freestyle Libre for almost a year and have only had a issue with one sensor that accidentally got caught in my shirt as I was taking it off.

      For you husband – to loose two sensors in such a short time I would boldly suggest human error is the culprit. We all have differ skin types and as men we are a bit hairy. Here are my suggestions for you:

      1) Remove the hair from a small area to ensure the Libre Sensor has skin to skin contact.
      2) Ensure you prep the area with the supplied alcohol wipes – clean and glue free.
      3) Improve the adhesion of the sensor, pre-treat the area with Skin-Tac. Skin Tac Adhesive Barrier Prep Wipes have two main uses. They provide a tacky surface for you to easily fix any dressings or tapes to, and they provide an effective barrier between your skin and those dressings.
      4) Pay attention the edges of the Libre, they may start lifting up. This is usually the culprit of people loosing a sensor early as it is much easier for a short sleeve or oddly positioned door frame to get under that loose edge. At this point (usually around day ten), I add a protective barrier overtop of my Libre. I usually just use a piece of Kinesiology tape over top such as KT Tape. However, there are other products available such as Patchabetes (which I am using with my current sensor). I have a these and a few other options listed on our Amazon Store and our accessories for the freestyle Libre page.

      As I opened – using these tricks, I have never lost a sensor. The one and only one I did loose I skipped step 4. LOL. I have also summarized these tips here.

      As for the sensor not scanning – are you getting the message “try scanning again in a Few minutes?” or has the scanner stopped working all together?

      From what I understand – the “try scanning again” message is related to one of two things 1) you are a bit dehydrated and the sensor is not finding enough fluid in the skin to test (remember this is not a blood test, so body chemistry is important) or 2), there is a drastic change up/down in your sugars. In all cases we have our finger testers, so fall back to that if you need an exact test and can’t wait.

      If your sensor has stopped working (has never happened to me however have heard of others) – call the support line on the outside of your box. They may replace the sensor under warranty.

  3. Hi I was wondering. I put a new sensor on and then my iphone died. I now have a new phone, how do I use it with the sensor that is already on my arm?

    • That’s a great question – honestly, I have never tried however as the sensor is already activated I would simply try just choosing add new sensor on the iPhone app.

      If that doesn’t work – give the help desk a try tomorrow – 1-888-205-8296.

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