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Living with a continuous glucose monitor

We asked Sarah to share her experience of using a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). Other people may have different experiences. There are other CGMs available. 




Sarah says her life is easier to manage with the monitor

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1972 at the age of seven. I have been using the Dexcom G4 CGM for two and a half years.

I wanted to try CGM as having had what I considered relatively stable management of my Type 1 for a number of years, I started to experience greater unpredictability with high and low blood sugars at different times of the day.

So, having spoken to others in the type 1 community using CGMs, I took the plunge and decided to self-fund Dexcom to see if I could gain greater understanding of what was happening to my blood glucose trends throughout the day.

So what are the benefits and drawbacks that I have found?

The information that a CGM provides was like turning on a light. A lot can happen to blood glucose levels that goes unseen, even with regular testing. A CGM allows me to see my estimated readings throughout the day and whether I’m having highs or lows that may previously have been undetected.

I am able to use the CGM to watch how eating different foods affects my blood glucose levels and see how different foods with similar carbohydrate levels are absorbed by my body at different rates. This has made planning the timing of insulin doses before meal times much easier to judge. I can keep an eye on blood glucose trends post food and use this to decide when & how to use an additional dose to cover any later rises in my blood glucose. Although there will still be some occasions when I don’t quite get it right, I have far fewer problems now, by using a CGM to keep an eye on what is happening.

More freedom

As long as when I calibrate my CGM I am able to see that it is tracking me closely, I will often rely on CGM readings to determine whether I need to eat more or alter basal rates of insulin. This gives me more freedom, especially when out with a group of non-diabetics, to be able to join in an activity, without worrying that I need to hold everyone up to stop and test blood glucose levels regularly.

In the early days, there were occasions where the frequency of alarms on some days could cause frustration. I now have sensor readings sent to an android phone which sends them to a pebble watch. I disable all alarms on my phone during the day and keep a regular check on the reading displayed on my watch face and I find from using the information on the CGM I have far fewer issues with lows and highs.

Night time hypo alarm

The alarms do help me with overnight hypos. I am able to keep my phone on my bedside table and it buzzes to wake me up if my blood glucose is going up or down, within the limits I set. As someone who was diagnosed over 44 years ago before the use of home blood glucose monitoring and only tended to know I was hypo due to flaking out or on occasions, suffering night time convulsions, the reassurance of being able to trust a CGM to buzz me awake, if I have a falling blood glucose level, provides huge peace of mind.

Weight lifted

It is another piece of kit to carry around and the various devices are not easy to conceal in dresses or skirts. People at work are very used to seeing me carry around my devices if I am going to be away from my desk for more than twenty or so minutes and it would be nice not to have to keep checking whether I have everything with me. However, I personally found using a CGM has lifted a huge weight off me. Although I am glancing regularly at my CGM, I have found the ability to see potential problems with blood sugars before they get to a critical level, has taken some of the burden away from living with Type 1 diabetes.

I found that having been able to use CGM to improve my overall management has resulted in me being much kinder to myself when I have an “off day”. With the best management ever, no Type 1 can avoid having some days where they are either suffering constant lows despite eating everything in sight or stubborn highs that refuse to come down despite correction doses.

So, I am a convert. Having used this technology, I cannot imagine going back to being without it. It will not be right for everybody but without it, I would certainly find my life harder to manage.

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