It has been a whole week since I started using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). Let me tell you, I LOVE IT! I used to scoff a bit at those who used CGMs and would say things like, "I don't know how I ever lived without it.". Now I find myself in total agreement with them. Really, how did I ever survive without this valuable tool?
I barely did; I was totally out of control. But that is a story I've talked about a lot. Just read my old posts. I am living proof.
So, how have I done with my first week on a CGM? What have I learned about CGMing? What are some misconceptions I had that I now know better about? Read on for these answers, and more!
My first insertion was easy but I did have a couple little issues. It was slow and a bit awkward because I was learning. I think I messed up the adhesive a bit, or didn't insert the sensor quite right enough because every time I took a shower the receiver would show a sensor error and it would be two hours before things would work again. I think the sensor was getting a bit wet? We'll see, I have inserted a new sensor now and this time it was fast, easy, and I didn't make any mistakes that I know of. So if I still have this sensor error issue then I'll call tech support.
Also with my first insertion I broke off the transmitter latch by accident before putting in the transmitter. This may have also contributed to the sensor errors after shower time because I was only able to get the transmitter in by using my hands and a lot of pressure. Maybe it wasn't in quite right?
I had to calibrate often the first night but after that the readings were quite accurate and although The CGM only requires calibration twice a day, I actually calibrate up to four times a day. This is my choice.
This week has been the most wonderful for me. I could only guess before what my blood sugar was doing all day. All I had was an average of four glucose tests a day. Now I can see it in real time and know if it is on the rise, falling, or holding steady. I can catch a problem before it even becomes a problem! It is so much easier to keep myself in line when I can see that what I am doing is working...or not. I can make adjustments now instead of having to wait until the end of the day... or when an emergency happens.
It has only been a week and I am still learning all the wonderful things I can do with my CGM. I have mostly been stuck on the simple act of checking my numbers every few minutes and giggling with joy at knowing, seeing, my glucose progress. I love seeing that mostly straight line right across the screen, holding steady in the ideal range. Pure joy. I also love seeing all those dots and being able to see where I've been, how I'm trending, and learning what my days activity, foods, medications, are doing for, or against, me. I love going to bed at night no longer afraid that I might fall into a severe low. I now have a CGM set to alarm when I drop below 70. I can catch those lows before they become dangerous. I sleep so well now.
I have been curious and interested in getting a CGM for a few years now. I originally thought it was a replacement for glucose testing, but then I learned better. Even if you have a CGM, you still need to check your blood sugar the old fashioned way, and still just as often. A CGM does not replace or nullify blood glucose testing.
"What?!" You say. "Then what's the point in having a CGM? What's it for? Why aren't the CGM readings the same as blood glucose readings?" Let me answer this question most clearly by quoting The Dexcom user's guide.
The CGM checks your sugar every five minutes.
"[CGM] ...help you detect trends and patterns in your glucose levels. This trend information can help you see where your glucose is now as well as where your glucose may be heading and how fast you may be getting there. Understanding your glucose trends may help you take action to help avoid high or low glucose levels."
The reason you do not want to use your CGM readings as direct and exact blood sugar readings is because the CGM does not take its reading from your blood but from other fluids. This means although the CGM is usually close to your blood sugar, it is not exact. This is why it is good for trends but not exact blood sugar readings. This is also one reason you must calibrate the device twice daily by entering your blood sugar reading.
I was worried about exactly how you "hook it up". What do I have to do? And how often do I have to do it?
It is actually quite easy and painless. With Dexcom you get an easy step-by-step training disc and book to teach you, and if you are uncomfortable with that then they offer an in person training session to get you comfortable. It really is very easy, though.
The sensor must be changed once a week. The transmitter is good for about six months.
The basic parts are a sensor, which is the part that goes into your skin. It is a very thin, flexible piece that you can't even feel. A transmitter, which is the part you attach to the sensor on the surface of your skin. It is not bulky and you very quickly get used to it being there and will tend to forget it is even there. And a receiver which is smaller than most cell phones and easy to clip to your belt. The receiver has a twenty foot range, so you can walk away from it at home most of the time.
The transmitter is water proof, so you can shower with it or even go swimming. The sensor is not water proof but is protected as long as it is inserted correctly. The receiver is not water proof so you do need to be careful with it as if it was a cell phone.
I can tell you for certain that having this CGM has changed the way I look at food, activity, insulin... life. I thought I knew a lot about my diabetes. I thought I was doing so well getting it under control. Then I got a CGM and saw the effects of everything on my blood sugar in real-time. Now I understand so much more.
I am so happy to have a CGM. It is a tool every diabetic can greatly benefit from. I can hardly wait to see how the future with this tool improves.