Why Should I Use A Continuous Glucose Montitor Rather Than A Blood Glucose Meter?
Recently, I’ve seen a lot of television commercials and ads in magazines about continuous glucose monitoring systems. Under what conditions/circumstances should a person consider using the Dexcom G6 Continuous Glucose Monitoring System rather than daily testing with a regular blood glucose meter? What are the advantages/disadvantages, costs, benefits?
Thanks for the questions, Sweet People Club Member!
Several continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems exist on the market. The function by interpreting what your glucose level is within the fluid just under your skin. The great thing about that is you don’t have to poke your finger to find about what your glucose is doing; you simply glance at the monitor that comes with it or at your smart phone or watch as many have integrated with these devices so you don’t have to lug extra equipment around.
You specifically asked about the Dexcom G6. And just so you know, there are other brands like Abbott FreeStyle Libre and others that integrate with insulin delivery systems. These are examples of devices you apply yourself. There’s even an implantable one by Senseonics that your physician can place under your skin during an office appointment appointment every 90 days.
Let’s review some basics. Here are 3 parts to the system and some general costs if you were paying out of pocket (with insurance, monthly out of pocket expenses vary from $100 on up so work with your doctor’s office or pharmacy to find out your true cost):
1. The sensor. This is a tiny, tiny needle that rests under your skin. Honestly, I’ve worn them and you can’t feel it. These need to be changed every 10-14 days based on the system and can cost $100-$130 each without insurance.
2. The transmitter. This is the expensive part that needs replacing about every year that snaps into the sensor; it sends the glucose data through the air to the device that allows you to see the number. It can cost up to $900.
3. The receiver or reader. This is where you see the number; it can be a separate device or integrated with your phone or watch based on the system you purchase. It can cost $100-900 based on the system.
This is a basic overview as different systems offer different technology. For example, Libre combines the sensor and transmitter.
So, why would you opt for a CGM instead of a blood glucose meter?
- Peace of mind as you don’t have to wonder what’s going on with your sugar.
- Ongoing data without having to jab your finger.
- Some have alarms that alert you to the fact you will go low or too high in 20 minutes. This safety feature is critical for insulin users.
- See how the foods you ate translated into real-time glucose.
- Understand impact of exercise, sleep, stress and all the other variables you face every day.
- Integrates discretely with your life such that you can glance at the number or trend arrows that show which direction your glucose is going without having to bust out a lancet, a lancet device, a meter, a strip, etc.
- You can afford it.
- Blood glucose meter have a wider variety in their accuracy level especially with the cheaper models.
Disadvantages (depending on the brand you choose):
- Alarm fatigue because perhaps you weren’t given advice on what to set them at.
- Some require charging the device for 3 hours every 7 days.
- Some don’t allow you to share the data on your loved ones phone.
- Results may be altered if you take Tylenol, aspirin or vitamin C.
- Lots of medical waste with the sensor inserters.
- Expense and sometimes supply delays.
- Data fatigue if you don’t know what to do with the numbers.
The bottom line is for those who use CGMs, they often see a lower A1C and feel safer, especially when taking insulin or medications that increase risk for hypoglycemia. For others, it can help you understand the nuance of your blood sugar response to what you do through the day. Cost is a big hurdle to clear so do check with your healthcare provider about getting a prescription.
Also, if you don’t want to get the whole system, many physician offices and diabetes centers have a “Professional” CGM version that they can place on you and you wear it for a week or so. Then you’d come back into the office to see your results.
I personally love how CGMs help people living with diabetes. It’s the best thing I’ve seen happen in my over 30 year career. I do recommend you get education on how to download and interpret the numbers so you can make adjustments to your routine such that you feeeeeeeeeel better. Above are two images of what a couple systems look like, and below, what a report called the Ambulatory Glucose Profile looks like. It’s all on one page and with the help of a diabetes care and education specialist, we can help you figure out what it all means so that you feel comfortable understanding it too.
Hope this helped you to understand a little bit more about CGMs.