Tag Archives: Dexcom

Prickless.

No, this is not a story about removing the president of the United States from office.

Instead, this is about something I did recently.

I went a full day without doing any fingersticks. Twice.

I got the idea when a Dexcom sensor ended, and I still had about four days left in my trial of the Freestyle Libre (Disclosure: Abbott paid for the reader and two sensors. Opinions are my own).

At first, I wasn’t sure about only wearing a CGM that I didn’t have a lot of experience with. But during the trial, it had been pretty reliable. Then I thought, “the Libre doesn’t require fingersticks, even for calibration… what if someone didn’t want to do one?”. So I spent an entire day, a Sunday, not using my meter even once.

Then, once I got through a day using only the Libre, I knew I had to do the same thing with my Dexcom G5. The Dexcom only requires fingersticks for calibration, so in theory at least, after calibration, I could go quite a long time managing my diabetes with only the Dex. Dexcom’s turn came earlier this week.

I don’t know a single person using either of these systems who ever actually does this. I’m sure there are, but I haven’t seen anything about it anywhere. How was my experience?

In a word, I was terrified. When you rely on pricking your finger with a sharp (okay, blunt) object multiple times per day for years on end, drawing blood and using that blood to give you a handle on your diabetes, you get used to it enough to rely on it first. For me, my meter is my truth teller.

Occasionally, my CGM will give me a weird reading I just can’t believe. When it does, it’s important, even comforting, to know that I can grab my meter and trust what it tells me. But the thing is… more often than ever before, even in these moments, the meter and the CGM are very close.

I didn’t have any notable moments during the two days. No big highs, no major lows. I just lived my life, checking my BGs only via my CGM display. Managing insulin dosing and carb intake accordingly. Out of sheer instinct, I took out the meter a couple of times each day, nearly checked, but then put it back in the drawer with a laugh.

Since things worked so well over these two days, you may be wondering if I might want to ditch the meter entirely. The answer is No. As I said, when it comes to blood sugar, I’ve come to rely on my meter as the one bastion of truth above all others.

But… I could see backing off on glucose checks in my future. Maybe I won’t check seven to ten times each day. Maybe four or five, or even three or four might do the job. Maybe it’s time to think of my CGM as more than just an emergency alert system.

What this experience has done is give me the feeling that I can step back and reassess whether I need to give my continuous glucose monitor more of a place at my diabetes table. I would have never guessed that I might do that. I’ll still keep my meter handy. But going forward, I’ll be just as likely to rely on my CGM.

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8 Questions… just because.

It’s been kind of a whirlwind week, in the middle of two or three whirlwind weeks in a row. Lots of things going on, some important news, and a few really sad stories outside of the Diabetes Community.

Since we’re busy and we’ve had a lot of dark clouds hanging over our collective heads lately, I think we all could use a break. So, without further ado, here are eight interesting diabetes questions based on, well, nothing really. Feel free to leave your answers in the comments. Here we go:

1. Insulin pump or MDI (multiple daily injections)? Or neither? We know that some people who live with Type 2 diabetes don’t take insulin at all, and some insulin users are using inhalable insulin. I’m still working with my Animas Vibe pump, even though Animas has decided to go out of business. Whatever you do to help manage your diabetes, if it’s working, you’re doing the right thing. Isn’t it great to have choices? When we’re allowed to have choices?

2. Dexcom or Libre? With U.S. FDA approval of Abbott’s Freestyle Libre continuous glucose monitor, I suspect this will be a question asked more and more in doctor’s offices and at diabetes conferences nationwide. These aren’t the only CGMs available, but they’re the only ones available as standalone devices (not required to be paired with an insulin pump). Again, it’s great to have choices, when we’re allowed to have choices.

3. Have you heard of The Affordable Insulin Project? This is another of DPAC’s efforts on an issue that affects millions of Americans. Check out the website and see how you can help spread the word and help make access to the life-saving drug that many cannot live without more affordable. To find out more, go to AffordableInsulinProject.org.

4. Have you donated insulin or supplies to victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico? Insulin for Life USA is helping to coordinate efforts to send much-needed insulin and test strips to those impacted by hurricane Maria, and also hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Find out how you can help pay it forward by going to ifl-usa.org.

5. Are you donating blood? All of us were shaken this week by the news that hundreds were gunned down at a concert in Las Vegas. In response, many have donated blood via the American Red Cross. Did you know that many People With Diabetes in the USA can donate blood? Whether it helps victims in Vegas, or those closer to your home, every pint is necessary and so appreciated. I can state unequivocally that donating blood has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. Consider donating too, then go to RedCrossBlood.org.

6. Did you watch the Sammies this year? Maybe you missed them because you were concentrating on the Emmys. The Sammies, or Service to America medals, are known as the Oscars of government service. They’re given each year to federal employees who are recognized as “breaking down barriers, overcoming huge challenges and getting results”. That’s especially true of Courtney Lias and Stayce Beck of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, who have been instrumental in helping artificial pancreas research move from the “maybe, someday” stage to patient’s hands. I cannot say enough good things about them. Read about their incredible work HERE. Congratulations Stayce and Courtney!

7. Will I see you this weekend? Friends for Life comes to the Washington, D.C. area this weekend in Falls Church, Virginia. If you’re coming, I hope to see you as I advocate at the DPAC table in the exhibit area. Look for a brief recap in this space shortly.

8. Will I see you next weekend? When it rains, it pours, and diabetes events will be pouring over Northern Virginia like monsoon season in Myanmar this October, as the Diabetes UnConference and Diabetes Sisters’ Weekend for Women co-locate in Alexandria October 13-15. I will once again be a facilitator at the UnConference, and I am very much looking forward to getting together for peer-to-peer support, encouragement, and all the feels. I’ll let you know how it goes later in the month.
 
 
Those are my questions of the moment… have any answers, or questions of your own? Let me see yours in the comments below.

The Dexcom G5 Mobile App. I’m a fan.

After last week’s whiny post about how I’ve been so disappointed in my diabetes devices lately, I feel compelled to let the pendulum swing in the other direction and give credit where credit is due.

About a week and a half ago, Dexcom rolled out its G5 Mobile app to Android users. Finally. Okay, I said I would give credit where credit is due. And kudos to Dexcom, who, as far as I can tell, is the only device maker to develop software to use on an Android platform. Yay!

I know all of you iPhone Dexcom users are yawning right now, but please give me a moment to be happy too. I’m a person who can appreciate the wonders of a good smart phone, but I can’t bring myself to pay hundreds of extra dollars because there’s an image of an apple on it. After years (literally, years) of waiting for an Android option, Dexcom has come through.

Among other things, this means no more carrying around the receiver. I’m a guy who carries too much in my pockets already. I do not need one more thing to lug around, and even though the receiver wasn’t too big, not having to carry it around feels like a big weight off of my… pockets.

In addition, I’ve finally completed my Clarity account setup, which means my endocrinologist can get my Dex data too. No more downloading the data at the office visit. She’ll have it already. Cool, huh?

I’m getting the hang of navigating the G5 Mobile app. It took me a couple of days to realize that I needed to turn the phone to landscape view to be able to see more than the last three hours’ worth of data. Once I do, it’s just a push of a button to view my data in 1 hour, 3 hour, 6 hour, 12 hour, or 24 hour increments. If I hover my finger at any point in the graph, it will show what my reading was at that very point.

And I have to admit to having a little fun with the alert sounds. Instead of the basic Vibrate, soft, attentive, etc. settings available on the receiver, I have 23 different sounds to choose from. So if I want to have my low alert set to Truck Siren or Blamo Dings, I can do that. Nice touch.

I get that making an app work on two different platforms is extra work, but I am SO HAPPY that Dexcom has made the effort. Reducing the burden of managing diabetes is a good thing, and to that extent, Dexcom has done it.

The Dexcom G5 Mobile app for Android users is available for free in the Google Play store right now.

My apologies for the off-center views of my phone screen. Security features built into the app will not allow for a screen capture, so I had to take photos of my phone screen.

Disclosure: I was not given anything or asked to write anything about the Dexcom G5 Mobile app. All opinions are, as always, my own.

Device failures.

I’ve nearly had enough.

The past few weeks have been full of diabetes device failures, and I’m actually asking myself how much more I can take.

Dexcom sensor failures are frustrating me more than I can express here. Since January, roughly one out of every two sensors fail without working more than a day, or ever working at all. I mean, how long do you put up with that kind of unreliability before you chuck it into a box and give up?

And believe me, I’m doing the insertions exactly the way I’m supposed to. Every time I do an insertion, I’m still going back to the online tutorial to make sure I’m not missing anything. The failed CGM sensors have definitely become my biggest diabetes nightmare.

I’ve even stopped contacting Dexcom support about it. The calls are all the same: the support person goes through their script so they can cover everything they need to cover… I get that. Usually, after about half an hour on the phone, they agree to send me a new sensor. But… how much is the sensor, and what is my time worth? In addition, I’ve had to replace a transmitter and a receiver too. In a little over five months. It’s quickly becoming not worth it.

But my pump issues are still there too. I have an Animas Vibe pump where a 200 unit limit to my reservoir isn’t really an issue. But it’s not really 200 units. Because once the pump says the reservoir is at 0 units, the pump stops… even though there are usually around 20 units left in the reservoir. So, something that could last 3 ½ days (for me) winds up lasting barely 3 days, if I don’t have other issues. Why do I have to waste 20 units of insulin every few days?

Which I almost always do, because my Medtronic infusion sets can’t seem to go more than 2 to 2 ½ days before they just don’t want to work as well anymore. At that point, I still seem to get insulin, but instead of hovering between 80 mg/dL and 120 mg/dL, I suddenly go up to 220 to 320. So I have to bolus huge amounts of insulin to try to bring my glucose level down. When I change out the set my BGs go immediately down to a reasonable level again. Why can’t an infusion set be made well enough to last the FDA-mandated three day limit? Or greater?

These are all issues that I did not experience in the five years I was managing diabetes through my previous pump and no CGM. Let me put it another way: my A1c is climbing, due only to medical device failures. This leaves me asking even more questions. Like:

Why can’t device makers make something that is simple, and not as susceptible to breakdowns?

I understand the all-consuming need to develop the next special product with all the bells and whistles, but… why can’t there be a simple option that I can use? My previous pump seemed to do everything I needed it to do. Why can’t I just choose a new version of that?

I actually like my Dexcom when it works… why can’t it work more often, with fewer breakdowns of the individual parts?

I hate to pick on individual companies. But the truth is, if these were cars, I would probably choose not to drive as opposed to breaking down on the side of the road every few days.

Granted, there still aren’t many (in a trending sense) people who are managing their diabetes through pumps and CGMs. But I don’t think that should be a reason for me to settle for inferior products. It certainly isn’t a reason for me to continue to pay for said products without noting where they are coming up short.

And without saying that maybe some device companies need to go back and make their current products as reliable as they can before devoting resources toward the Next Big Thing.

Getting Acquainted.

Now that I’m officially several weeks into my life on Dexcom, I just wanted to scribble down some notes for the purpose of keeping a record on how it’s been going so far.
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This is mostly stream of consciousness, but as usual, my stream of consciousness still contains several words. Hopefully, they are ones you’ll want to read. Here are eight observations on the early going with Dexcom.

1. I know that I have FDA approval to bolus based on my Dexcom G5 readings, but I haven’t done it yet. Okay, I may have pushed a one unit correction bolus through once or twice without doing a fingerstick, but that’s all. I’m not blousing for a meal based on my display. I’m confident in my Dexcom– I’m just not confident that it will be perfect 100 percent of the time, every single day. I would hate to over- or under-bolus based on the one time it’s off by a bit. I hate to think of the result of doing that. So, no dice to the bolus-off-Dex so far.

2. I’ve got to remember to order some Skin Tac or Opsite Flexfix or something to hold down my sensor, and soon. The peeling is real, folks.

3. At the Diabetes UnConference, I checked in with a couple of people to get their pointers on doing an upper arm insertion. I also looked at Daniele Hargenrader’s recent video showing her doing this. Then I did it. Then I loved it. It’s mostly out of the way, and the sensor works pretty good there. And the accuracy has been fantastic. Win-win-win.

4. I’m not interested in using my thigh or forearm for sensor placement. I use my thigh a lot for insulin pump infusion sites, and I’m guessing that using my forearm would be painful. This outlook is subject to change, as I should be from time to time. Also, I may be going back to using my midsection for a while anyway. More about that at another time.

5. Based on what I’m seeing up to now, it looks like the basal rate settings on my insulin pump are, frankly, stellar. Whether I’m high or low (you’re welcome Janelle Monae), once the peaks level out, if I don’t touch my pump, the line on my graph is pretty flat. I’m a little shocked, but happy that my endocrinologist and I were able to work this out without the benefit of a CGM to guide us.
dexcom100
6. I have avoided the newbie temptation to check my CGM graph every two minutes. I think that’s because of my Dexcom experience during clinical trials. Of course, not checking the receiver all the time means I’ve made the mistake of putting it on the table and walking out of the room every so often. I never said I was perfect.

7. That said, can I just say how much I really hate the fact that I still have to look at a pager-sized display to get my readings? I’m not buying the “We’re working on an Android solution” anymore. You’re not… just admit it. If I’m wrong about that, I’ll be the happiest guy around who ever had to eat his own words, and I will gladly eat those words in this very space.

8. Like anything, when things go well, you tend to see something in a very positive light. That’s where I am now. At the beginning, I had a failed transmitter which also cost me a few sensors, and that was extremely frustrating. I realize that how I use my CGM, and how I react to various things affecting my use of my CGM, may very well change over time. But I hope things remain positive. Because for the last couple of weeks, it hasn’t been a big problem to deal with, and that’s the only way I’m going to buy into the notion of wearing my Dexcom every single day.

Those are my initial observations. I wonder how I will feel about my CGM in a year? Only time will tell. The goal is to make it to another year and find out.

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