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This article is not medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or use the medication guide.
Freestyle Libre Information
Freestyle Libre 14 Review
What is Freestyle Libre?
The Freestyle Libre is an advanced continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system that uses a reader or mobile phone App to “scan” glucose levels.
This revolutionary device comes to replace the conventional fingerstick blood glucose monitors in that it doesn’t require routine fingerstick measurements and manual calibrations. It also liberates you from all the inconveniences that come with large traditional systems.
The Freestyle Libre 14 is made by Abbott Park. It was first launched for the European market in 2014 and later approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2016.
The Freestyle Libre 14 day system is currently available for prescription only in the USA, but you can get it over the counter in Canada. It’s recommended for adults and children 4 years old and above with diabetes 1 or 2. This system is notably cheaper than the iconic Dexcom CGM, so it’s much more accessible to patients on a budget. However, for its price, the Libre has a few design compromises that we’ll discuss later in this Freestyle Libre review.
Freestyle Libre 14 Unboxing- What’s included in the box?
The Freestyle Libre CGM starter package will come with 2 devices inside:
This handheld device looks pretty much like a small phone, and it’s super compact and lightweight. It measures 95 mm x 60 mm x 16 mm and weighs around 65 grams.
This reader has a large backlit touch-sensitive screen that’s easy to read both day and night, and a single intuitive home button. The reader will scan your glucose level data when you move it 1.5 inches near the sensor and display the readings on the screen in 3 ways. The first is a large number that represents your current sugar level in mg/dL. Next to this number is a trend arrow that indicates whether your glucose level is going down, up, or it’s steady.
Lastly, there’s a graph that gives you an idea of how your sugar level has been fluctuating for the last 8 hours. This is important, especially if you’re not able to scan frequently. The reader will also keep a history of your blood sugar for up to 90 days.
In case you’re wondering, the Freestyle Libre reader uses a rechargeable battery that lasts 7 days and recharges fully in 3 hours.
This is the part that attaches to your body, usually at the back of your upper arm. The Freestyle sensor kit includes 2 components. The first is the sensor itself, and the second is a one-use sensor applicator. The applicator is what you’ll use to attach the sensor unit at the back of your arm.
The Freestyle Libre sensor is tiny and discreet. It measures 35mm in diameter and 5mm in height. It stays firmly attached to your arm using adhesive, and it’s waterproof. You don’t need to remove it even when taking a shower or swimming.
This sensor has a built-in silver oxide battery that doesn’t need to be charged for the 2 weeks you’ll have it on. It also has a small needle with which it reads your blood sugar levels. The sensor stores the collected data for 8 hours and will transfer it to the reader (or phone App) each time you scan.
Important to mention, the Freestyle sensor lasts 14 days. You’ll need to replace it with a fresh one after this. Don’t worry about forgetting when you need to replace the sensor. The reader has a countdown timer for this purpose.
Other items included in the package
- Interactive Tutorial USB card- it has a comprehensive guide with helpful instructional videos on how to use Freestyle Libre
- Standard USB charger
- Power adapter
- User’s manual
- Quick start guide
- 2 alcohol wipes- necessary for wiping down the site before applying the sensor
Proper Use- How to Use the Freestyle Libre
The Freestyle Libre 14 flash monitoring system comes with all sorts of instructions from colored pictograms to instructional videos. We recommend going through these guides, so you get everything right from the word go. You’ll find this kit incredibly easy to set up and use, though.
How to set up Freestyle Libre Sensor kit
- Start by peeling off the lids on the sensor pack and sensor applicator.
- Position the sensor kit on a hard surface. Hold the applicator on top of the sensor upside down. Be sure to align the black lines on each kit to each other.
- Press the applicator firmly until you get a click.
- Lift the applicator pack out of the sensor pack (applicator pack can be disposed of). At this point, you should see a needle inside the sensor pack.
- With the sensor kit ready, use the alcoholic wipes to clean a small section at the back of your upper arm. Let it dry.
- Next, firmly press the sensor pack over the prepared site. Does the Freestyle Libre hurt? No. Most people say that it’s several folds less painful than a prick. Again, the applicator is spring-loaded, and this further minimizes the level of pain.
- Gently pull the sensor pack and dispose of it. Make sure that the sensor kit is firmly attached to your skin.
How to Set up Freestyle Libre Reader
- Start by removing the plastic film on the screen.
- Press the large blue button to switch the reader ON. The reader comes fully charged, so it’s ready to use right away.
- Next, you’ll be prompted to key in the date and your target glucose level.
- After keying in the necessary information, you’ll be taken to Home screen.Tap Select New Sensor on screen and swipe the reader near the sensor to sync the 2.
- Before offering any data, the new sensor will warm up for 60 minutes. It will be ready to use after 1 hour.
Connecting the Freestyle Libre to Your Phone
Abbott aims at making diabetes management as convenient as possible for you. Now using the Freestyle LibreLink App, it’s possible to scan the sensor using an Apple phone or watch and even Android phones. To use your phone with Freestyle Libre app, it needs to be NFC enabled. Freestyle LibreLink is compatible with iPhone 7 and up and OS 11 and higher. For Android users, the phone needs to be running on OS 5.0 or higher.
Mechanism of Action: How does Freestyle Libre work?
Unlike the conventional Fingerstick systems that measure your blood sugar (BG) levels, the Freestyle Libre sensor detects the glucose level in your interstitial fluid (ISF). Interstitial fluid is a layer of fluid that surrounds the cells. This sensor uses wired enzyme sugar sensing technology, which comes already calibrated from the factory. This eliminates the need for regular finger prick calibrations.
The sensor automatically detects changes in glucose level every minute and stores the data every 15 minutes for up to 8 hours. When you need to get a reading, you just position the reader (or a compatible phone or Apple watch) close to the sensor. The information is transferred in a second.
To clarify, the sensor stores data for a maximum of 8 hours after which it overwrites the current data and starts another round. However, data transferred to the reader is stored for up to 90 days.
Another important thing to note is that Freestyle Libre reader isn’t Bluetooth or Wi-Fi enabled. This means that it can’t share or receive data from your other devices (phone and watch). Freestyle Libre is still relatively new, so this feature may be available with future generations.
What do you do within the 1-hour warm-up period?
As mentioned before, the Freestyle Libre sensor requires a 60-minute ‘warm up’ before it can start detecting glucose levels. Uniquely, the reader has a built-in blood test strip port that you can use to test your blood glucose level as the sensor tries to “understand your body.” This system utilizes Precision Neo freestyle Libre test strips.
Does the Freestyle Libre System have alarms?
No. The significant difference between Freestyle Libre vs Dexcom is that the Libre doesn’t have real-time alerts for high and low glucose levels. This can be a pro or con depending on how you want to look at it. On the upside, the alarm on the Dexcom G6 helps a lot in maintaining tight glucose level management. On the downside, most people find these alarms startling at times and would prefer a no-alarm system.
Freestyle Libre System Accuracy
The Freestyle Libre 14 has proved to be incredibly accurate most of the times. The fact that the FDA approves its use in the management of diabetes 1 and 2 is enough proof of its reliability. However, remember that this system measures the glucose in your interstitial fluids, not blood glucose. As such, you may notice a slight difference if you were to compare its results with systems that measure the blood glucose. However, the difference is often not as wide.
There are times when the Libre 14 will give wide variances, especially when you’re having a hypo. The FDA also noted this in one of its experiments. Therefore, when you’re experiencing low glucose levels, it’s crucial to get a confirmatory result using a finger prick test.
Lastly, remember that the sensor stores data in intervals of 15 minutes. Essentially, this means that it does not show real-time glucose level readings.
Freestyle Libre Cost
The best price for Freestyle Libre sensor is around $130 (out-of-pocket) for a 14-day kit. This price can get as high as $180 in some stores, but you can also save a lot if you have a Freestyle Libre coupon. Freestyle Libre sensor Walmart price is around $120 as of July 2020, and it’s even lower at Costco at about $115. Consider our list above for the best coupon for Freestyle Libre if you’re looking to save more.
Freestyle Libre Pros
- Does not require regular finger pricks
- Easy to wear
- No-alarm design might interest some user
- Offers data in a split second
- Does not require calibration
- Sensor stores data for up to 8 hours
- The reader keeps glucose level history for up to 3 months
Freestyle Libre System Cons
- Lacks high/low alert
- The reader can’t share data with your other devices
- Doesn’t allow calibration for accuracy
- Inaccurate readings in hypo
Freestyle Libre Sensors Storage
The sensor kit should be stored in a cool and dry place between 39°F and 77°F and in 10-90% non-condensing humidity. Store away from children.
Freestyle Libre Warnings
- Don’t wear the sensor for more than 2 weeks.
- Always clean your hands before sensor insertion.
- Wipe the site using the alcohol-based wipes and let it dry before sensor application.
- This system doesn’t offer real-time results. The data is delayed for 15 minutes.
- The use of Freestyle Libre continuous glucose monitor among pregnant women hasn’t been approved in the USA (it’s approved in the UK).
- Do not reuse Libre Freestyle sensors.
- The data may not be accurate if the sensor is positioned in any other part other than the back of the upper arm.