What is flash glucose monitoring and is it for you?
No, this is not something for those who only like the fancier things in life ... flash monitoring is a form of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) which aims to replace routine blood glucose testing in adults. It is currently being manufactured by Abbott and is marketed as the Freestyle Libre.
How Does Flash Monitoring Work?
The system uses 2 components, a sensor and reader device. The sensor is a small flat, waterproof device about the size of a large coin. A small wire (about the width of a hair) is inserted easily and painlessly into the back of the arm. It lasts for up to 14 days and automatically measures glucose day and night.
Unlike more sophisticated forms of continuous glucose monitoring the sensor needs to be “read” using a dedicated reader. It does not broadcast the glucose level rather will provide the result when the sensor is swiped. The reader, which also can also be used as a blood glucose/ketone meter, scans (or flashes) over the sensor to see the glucose reading. Once scanned (think supermarket checkout type scan!) the reader will display not only the current sensor glucose level but also provide results from the last 8 hours. You can easily see how your glucose levels are trending by arrows on the front screen. It can scan through clothing which is handy and stores up to 90 days of data.
Are the Glucose Readings Accurate in People with Diabetes?
All glucose measuring devices must be assessed using the mean absolute relative difference (MARD) rating when compared to blood glucose testing in a laboratory. The rating for the Freestyle Libre is 11.4% which is ok but certainly not as accurate as using a good quality glucose reader but the fact that it can give you a trending direction is invaluable.
It is worth pointing out that the sensor is not measuring blood glucose levels but rather the glucose in the liquid that surrounds fat cells under the skin. This is termed extracellular fluid and there can be a delay between glucose getting into the blood before it makes its way into the extracellular fluid. So it is important to point out that glucose reading measured by the sensor can differ especially when blood glucose levels are changing rapidly such as when you are experiencing lows or highs.
If you feel like you are low, YOU MUST check your blood glucose level to check its correct.
Is It For Me?
It really depends on what you want it for but the answer is: probably. Using CGM allows for a tremendous amount of information to be given to the person with diabetes as well as the team helping to care for them. Imagine seeing exactly what happens to your glucose level after eating different foods, exercise or when using new medications. The main problem is that the Libre system won’t tell you what is happening to your glucose level unless you scan it but there are systems out there from Medtronic and Dexcom that will alert you automatically without scanning if your glucose level is falling or rising rapidly or if you are having a hypo.
If you experience a lot of variation in blood glucose levels or are using an insulin pump then one of the other CGMs systems may be a better option, but for a relatively small outlay this technology is certainly part of the revolution in diabetes care that is happening right now.
If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes and would like to know more about how best to manage your condition, you can join our personalised 12 week diabetes program. We can tailor your program to give you more of what you want to see, for example tips of carb counting or exercise. Plus, the first week is completely free!