by Jason Rzucidlo
More than 400 million people worldwide are suffering from diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends that glucose levels before a meal are between 70 and 130. One to two hours following a meal, it should be 180 or less.
Poking your finger. It’s something that diabetes patients must do to monitor their glucose levels each day. After a while, it becomes automatic like taking a shower and tying your shoes. For some, it can be a daunting task.
However, there’s a new way to monitor your glucose levels–without the poke! The FDA has recently approved a new option called the FreeStyle Libre 14-day glucose monitor. Patients just have to place a small sensor with a sticker to back of their arm and it can stay there for up to 14 days. Then, they can check their levels throughout the day and monitor them either online or on their smartphone.
“When you have diabetes, your body has a hard time regulating the glucose level,” said Amy Folker, a nurse practitioner at the Rush Oak Park Physician Group in Chicago. “You really do have to learn the things that raise glucose like the foods that you are eating and the stress level that you are under and things that lower glucose levels like exercise and medication. When you have diabetes, you kind of have to balance all of these items to maintain your glucose in a normal range. People need to be checking and seeing where their glucose is if it’s getting too high or too low. Both of those can be dangerous.”
How often should diabetes patients be checking their glucose levels?
“It depends on the type of diabetes you have,” she answered. “It depends on what type of treatments you are getting for diabetes. If you are on diet and exercise, pills, insulin. We really do individualize the treatment plan for each person with diabetes because there’s just so many different options. It could be anywhere from one to five to 10 times per day depending on your treatment plan.”
That’s where the new FreeStyle Libre 14-day glucose monitor can help.
“Yes, this is very exciting technology. So many new things are coming out to help people with diabetes. One of these is the FreeStyle Libre. This is a continuous glucose monitor where you don’t need to routinely poke your finger to find out what your glucose level is. It’s a small sensor applied to the back of the arm. People can use a handheld device to scan it and they know right then and there what their glucose level is…if it’s going up, if it’s going down, what it’s been over the past few hours. They can see how certain things such as food or exercise or stress has affected their glucose value.”
So patients don’t have to poke their finger anymore? Wow!
“No. Can you believe it?” Folker explained. “With the sensor, you are testing your glucose value without doing that. It really has made a change in the way that people are managing their diabetes. How often they are able to see their glucose values.”
Whenever new technology comes it, it’s always pricey. Does that apply to the FreeStyle Libre?
“The good news is…many insurances and even Medicare do cover the FreeStyle Libre. What I would recommend is that people that are interested in this go to FreeStyleLibre.us. There’s lots of information about the FreeStyle Libre device. There’s also information to check on your insurance and see if it’s covered for you.”
Basically, a patient would just have to bring it up with their doctor to order one.
“You do need a prescription to get the FreeStyle Libre,” she added. “I would encourage anybody that is testing their glucose and they want to check their glucose frequently that they talk to their healthcare provider. Diabetes educators know a lot about this new technology also.”
Is the FreeStyle Libre readily available at pharmacies such as CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreen’s?
“Yes, at pretty much any major pharmacy and even a bunch of small pharmacies you can get this.”
The FreeStyle Libre: A diabetes patient’s point-of-view
Reny Partain is a clinical social worker at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. At the young age of two, she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Partain has been living with the epidemic for the past 27 years and says the new FreeStyle Libre is a life saver. It has made checking her glucose levels quicker and easier.
“I’ve really seen how much diabetes management has changed from when I was first diagnosed,” Partain said. “As Amy was saying, the advancements in technology have made such a big impact on my life and really the quality of my life. Things have really gotten better and it’s been really exciting to see these changes and to be able to just devices like the FreeStyle Libre.”
What are some of the challenges associated with living with diabetes?
“There are a lot of different things that can impact my glucose levels,” she answered. “Those things can change day to day. What that means for me is that I have to be really flexible in the way that I approach my diabetes management. I have to be really prepared to make minute-by-minute changes depending on what my day is like. Waking up really early impacts my glucose level. On days when I’m really active it can change how much medication I’m giving and the type of food that I choose to eat. I am really aiming to keep my glucose level as close to that target range as possible to avoid complications.”
Would you say that you are able to live a normal life–go to work and do things around the house?
“Yes, absolutely. I’m able to do anything that anyone without diabetes does. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of extra planning to get me there. That’s where the FreeStyle Libre has made a really big difference. It is giving me real-time data letting me know what my glucose levels are doing. More than just the data, it’s actually giving me trend arrows. Is my glucose level rising or is it falling? That way I can make really smart, educated decisions about how I’m adjusting my management to be able to continue living a normal life. Last month I ran the Chicago Marathon which is really exciting. I travel all over the world. I’ve had several multiple full-time jobs. I’ve been able to do whatever I set my mind to go do.”
Why is it important to see a bigger picture of your glucose patterns?
“It allows me to make smarter decisions,” Partain explained. “I want to work smarter, not harder. When I use the FreeStyle Libre, I’m getting the grasp of my glucose level so I can see for the past several hours where were my glucose levels at. I can download all of that data onto my computer and look for patterns and trends. Am I having issues in the morning? How can I adjust medication to change that? The data that I download I can then share with my endocrinologist, with my parents, my family. I can get really good at fine tuning it and how to get input from my doctors on how to make that management even better.”
Does the FreeStyle Libre monitor also sync up with your smartphone?
“Yes, they just released a new app. It’s really exciting. Normally, I use a handheld reader to scan over the sensor and get a glucose reading. Now, you can download an app on our iPhone and you can get all of the data there. You can take notes about what’s happening in your day. You can share that data with your caregiver, your friends or with your doctor.”
What advice would you give to someone who’s been recently diagnosed with diabetes?
“I would let them know that it can be really overwhelming in the beginning,” she answered. “You are given so much new information. You are having to do sometimes scary things. It can feel like a lot. But it gets easier. One of the things that was really important for me was getting connected with the diabetes community. Find the support and make those connections with other people who really know what it’s like to manage this day in and day out. The other thing is that the technology is getting better. The FreeStyle Libre has made a huge difference in my life. I’m excited to see what comes out next.”
Once again, the FreeStyle Libre is a great new option for diabetes patients who have to monitor their glucose levels. It is quick, easy and painless. The best part is–there’s no more poking your finger.
For more information about the FreeStyle Libre 14-day glucose monitor, visit FreeStyleLibre.us. Note: A prescription is required so you’ll have to bring it up for your primary care physician or endocrinologist to order one. It’s available right now at just about every major pharmacy. Most insurances including Medicare are covering the FreeStyle Libre.
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