Monday, 28 March 2016

Libre - what do I reckon

I've been asked a few times (well, a couple of times), on Twitter what I think of the FreeStyle Libre so instead of sending a million tweets all at once, I've tried to summarise those thoughts here.  Remember this is just what I reckon* and bear in mind that at the time of writing, I've had a total of five weeks use out of their sensors.  For more thorough reviews over a much longer period of time, you should be reading Mike's blogs here.

* I'm going to keep linking to that video because a) it's funny and b) it's a reminder to keep grounded about our opinions on stuff generally

I've already written twice about the Libre:

- This is about how I felt before I started
- This is about my experiences of my first sensor

But I'll try and give some of my more general thoughts on it in case it proves helpful to anyone thinking of parting with the money for the first time.

  • It gives you more information, and (here's the caveat), with the right understanding, more information is very powerful.  It's not about the number of results - with the right tolerance for pain, you can get the same amount of data but the information (about what direction your BG is heading) is a very important addition
  • It can be a very motivating tool.  Diabetes isn't a game, but approaching it like one can be beneficial.  I get a big psychological boost from seeing the trace line staying within the bounds that I set spurs me on.  It also gives me confirmation that I know what I'm doing (at least some of the time), but...
  • When things aren't going my way (particularly when I'm high), I find the Libre very demoralising to the degree that I think it almost has an adverse effect on me.  Recently my BG was rising and rising and rising and I'd ruled out illness, bad carb counting, bad insulin/cannula... everything.  And still it rose.  As it's so easy to swipe and test, that's what I do.  And it makes me unhappy and frustrated which doesn't help.  With a fingerprick, I feel like I make much more of a choice to test, and so I can switch off from it if I want.   I don't approach it in the same way with a Libre.
  • It makes me feel more confident that I can correct from a relatively good reading (say 7.5mmol) to something 'better' like 6mmol and not go too low.  It's like it gives me the opportunity to nudge my BG either up or down to stay within my own target range.
  • I feel like I've ended up eating fewer 'proper' meals and started snacking more as it gives me the chance to feel more in control of how my BG is behaving.  I'm not sure that this sort behavioural modification is a good thing or not, but it seems to be an unintentional side effect.
  • It takes the stress out of some aspects of diabetes, particularly overnight basal testing.  Being able to get a full picture by swiping once every eight hours means I can test right before bed and first thing in the morning and start to identify any problem areas - I think that's a real positive.
  • The graphs and data the software gives you are very helpful.  I've never seen my own "ambulatory glucose profile" before, but I feel a lot better being able to see it.  The HbA1c estimator is also pretty helpful, and (in my limited experience), not far off being accurate either.
  • You have to decide for yourself how you define its accuracy.  I know what I kind of expect my BG meter to tell me when I start feeling low, and equally when I get that sticky feeling behind my eyes when I'm going high.  The Libre isn't always going to give me that same figure, but as long as I have that internal calibration, I feel pretty confident being able to dose or even correct from it's reading. But again...
  • Knowing its limitations is important too.  Don't use if before driving (always finger prick), don't use it if you've got an arrow showing rapidly falling (or rising) glucose - you need blood to really understand what's going on.
As with everything related to diabetes, it's all very individual.  You might end up with a reaction to the sensor adhesive (as I know a few people do), you might find it helpful where I find it frustrating (and vice versa), or may not find it 'accurate' enough.

I wasn't sure before I started using it but I think it was worth the cost of the reader and one sensor to understand what I was going to get from it.  If you can spare about £100 then I'd probably say go for it, just to understand what your experience is.  After that it becomes a more informed decision - you understand more about whether what you get is worth it for you.

Hope that's helped someone somewhere!

1 comment: