“It’s been a godsend,” says Gerry Gauvreau about the flash glucose monitor he has been using for the past few months to check his glucose (sugar) levels.
“After years of testing my sugars in a way that required sticking my finger several times a day, I feel that I and other people with diabetes have finally arrived in the advanced age!”
Mr. Gauvreau, 72, lives in Sudbury, Ontario, and has type 2 diabetes. Since July of this year, he has been using a type of glucose monitoring technology, the FreeStyle Libre system. He describes the system as “simple and painless” and most of all, he is impressed with the quality of information it provides about his sugar levels and about ways to manage them better.
“It tells me not only my current sugar level, but more importantly, where it has been and where it is going to go – and patterns start to show up,” he says.
The FreeStyle Libre system measures glucose levels through a small sensor applied to the back of the upper arm. The sensor is not testing the blood, but the fluid between the person’s tissues (called interstitial fluid).
The system provides real-time glucose readings around the clock, which can be read through a smartphone or specialized reader. With each scan, the patient can see the real-time glucose result; an eight-hour historical trend; and a directional trend arrow showing where glucose levels are headed.
“This type of glucose monitoring system changes the game for patients and for the interactions that we, as health-care providers, have with them,” says Ken Burns, a pharmacist at the Centre for Complex Diabetes Care at Health Sciences North in Sudbury.
“Being able to see a line showing your glucose levels minute by minute for eight hours is transformational for patients and clinicians,” says Mr. Burns. “This helps us to detect spikes and declines in sugars, discuss what might have caused the changes and then match the right therapies with these patterns.”
When Mr. Burns recently analyzed Mr. Gauvreau’s glucose patterns overnight, he discovered one that merited attention. “The pattern indicated that Gerry might have a sleep disorder – obstructive sleep apnea.”
“The data showed that my sugars were going up and down in short bursts, several times a night, and I was wondering why it was happening – I’m sleeping, not taking food or medication!” says Mr. Gauvreau.
“Ken explained this could mean that for short periods, I stop breathing, which can affect the ups and downs of my sugar levels. Now, the plan is for me to have tests and maybe undergo a sleep study to determine if I do have sleep apnea.”
Mr. Burns says he stresses to all his patients that finding sugar levels going too high or too low is not something to feel bad about. “It’s all valuable information that we both can use to solve problems and improve the person’s diabetes management and overall health.”
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.