An alternative to finger
pricking - your views
By Mark Tiller who lives with Type 2 Diabetes
Disclaimer: The information provided is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. Please consult your healthcare professional about your diabetes management. Individual symptoms, situations and circumstances may vary.
In 1996, I was drinking a lot of water and urinating excessively and was tested for diabetes. I ended up in hospital for 4 days while they stabilised my blood sugar and taught me to inject myself with insulin. That’s how I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Lack of motivation and complications
Over time and with a lot of challenges in my life I started having more pronounced self-esteem and self-confidence issues. I also began to suffer from diabetes distress. This made it more difficult for me to manage my diabetes. I began to suffer from eye problems and had several rounds of laser surgery for this in 2014 and 2015. I struggled more and more to be motivated to check my blood sugar and control it.
My health issues came to a head in mid-2019. My job at the time became extremely stressful with, yet another, round of job cuts and I ended up off work for 2 months due to stress. After which, I decided to take redundancy. In hindsight, I think it was this decision, to put my health first, which enabled the positive changes I would later make.
Technology to gain control
In November 2019, my average glucose levels (HbA1c) had gone up to 74 mmol/mol, the target being 48. In the follow-up meeting I asked the nurse about getting the FreeStyle Libre system and I was advised it wasn’t available on prescription for people with type 2 and that I didn’t need it. Despite that, I checked on the Abbott website and found I was able to self-fund the sensors. My first sensors arrived on the 5th of December 2019 and my journey to getting control of my diabetes began.
The FreeStyle Libre system made it easy for me to not only check my levels quickly and often on my phone*; importantly, I was able to easily track the effect on my sugar levels of the food I was eating. The various graphs, such as average glucose by time of day helped massively as well. By Christmas, I was on a low carbohydrate diet and as I saw improvements in my control, I dropped my carbohydrate intake even further.
In February 2020, my HbA1c test was only 49 mmol/mol! This was the best result I had had in at least 10 years and motivated me to make further changes. I got more structured in my approach after researching extensively on the internet. I started making my own low carb bread, as toast was something I didn’t want to give up!
Further improvements with glucose alarms
Switching to the FreeStyle Libre 2 system gave further improvements. The alarms meant I could worry less about my overnight sugars dropping in particular and prevent my sugar going too high during the day◊.
Since I started using the FreeStyle Libre system, the data has enabled me to keep my HbA1c between 37 and 43 mmol/mol, well below the target of 48. All my blood markers have improved, I stopped taking diabetes tablets completely, I halved my blood pressure medication and dropped my insulin usage by 75%, all under the supervision, and with the encouragement, of my GP. I have also lost 23kg in weight. This approach may not work for everyone, but it definitely has for me.
Here are my three tips:
Learn about the effects of different foods on your sugar levels - the FreeStyle Libre 2 system can help with that
Don’t go on a diet, make a change to your lifestyle
Measure everything! Particularly food. There are some great apps like My Fitness Pal to help
Access to tech for people with type 2
The recently updated guidelines from the National Institute for Health & Care Excellence (NICE) do make the FreeStyle Libre 2 system available to people with type 2, but only if you are on multiple daily injections and need to test more than 8 times a day or are unable to use finger prick tests. While this is a significant step forward for many people living with the condition, the guidelines could have gone further to include all people living with type 2 on insulin.
In my case, I have so far been unable to get the FreeStyle Libre 2 system on prescription, despite all the evidence of the good it is doing me.
It has given me the confidence and ability to take my first holiday since 2014 and go to Florida and easily manage my diabetes while away. My relationship with my wife, who has supported me along this journey, has never been closer.
Mark received a fee to write this blog. The views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of Abbott.
References and Disclaimers
* The FreeStyle LibreLink app is only compatible with certain mobile devices and operating systems. Please check the website for more information about device compatibility before using the app. Use of FreeStyle LibreLink requires registration with LibreView .
◊ Patients choose which device they want to receive alarms: FreeStyle Libre 2 reader or FreeStyle LibreLink app. They must start their FreeStyle Libre 2 sensor with that selected device. Once the patient scans their FreeStyle Libre 2 sensor with that device, they can receive alarms only on that device.
ADC-65639 v1.0 11/22
An alternative to finger
pricking - your views
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