words by Molly Openshaw, Arts Print Editor

The Freestyle Libre and its dramatic impact on diabetic people’s lifestyle

The Freestyle Libre (FL) is a flash monitoring glucose system to measure glucose levels throughout the day. It works by attaching a small sensor onto your arm which can be kept on the skin for fourteen days. You are able to use a phone or a scanner to read the sensor and get your glucose ratings at any time of the day. I spoke to my father, Simon Openshaw, about his experience with diabetes and using FL.

“It’s very important for me, as a person with Type 1 diabetes, to maintain as near to normal blood sugar levels. Failure to control correct levels can result in the possibility of collapsing and, if not acted upon, the chance of going into a diabetic coma. Long term effects include cardiovascular problems and blindness. 

Type 1 diabetes is when your pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps blood sugar enter the cells in your body where it can be used for energy. Without insulin, blood sugar can’t get into cells and builds up in the bloodstream. Before I used the Freestyle Libre, I had to test my blood sugar levels by pricking my finger 3 or 4 times each day which was often impractical and sometimes painful. The result was that I often went for extended periods without testing.”

Credit: Simon Openshaw

Created by Abbott Diabetes Care, this release was revolutionary after years of the traditional fingerstick glucose meters and test strips. The development of this technology has made glucose testing more accessible as well as enabling people to see their longer term glucose levels to compare and see patterns in their behaviour.

“The Freestyle Libre enables me to test my blood sugar as many times as I wish each day and doesn’t involve pricking my fingers. I wear a small sensor on my upper arm which I scan with my smartphone. This gives me an instant reading of my current blood sugar levels and also provides my average level over a given period.”

According to the World health organisation, around 422 million people in the world have diabetes. However, it is only recently that diabetic people have been able to get FL on prescription, and you have to meet certain criteria on how much your sugar levels are varying and how much this affects your everyday life. 

“2 years ago I became eligible to get FL on prescription, previously it was costing me £100 each month. The effect nationally is that more people are able to test effectively resulting in fewer short and long term complications.”

According to Mahmood Kazemi (Chief Officer for Abbott), “it has really a significant clinical impact in terms of the care of people living with diabetes and we’re very excited that we have this particular finding. We really already have seen that the technology is very user friendly and it’s the type of thing that people really do want to continue to use… so, truly life-changing from that perspective”.

For my father, using this technology has drastically helped the management of his diabetes, as well as allowing him to participate in the things he loves, such as cycling, without having to worry about the effects of his diabetes.

“The result of having used FS over the past 4 years is that my HBA1C levels (blood sugar levels measured over a 3-month period) have greatly reduced and are nearer to non-diabetic levels. It has also meant that I have had far fewer low sugar events. This has helped significantly, especially when taking part in sports. I love cycling and being better monitored has enabled me to go out cycling all day safe in the knowledge that I can check that my blood sugar levels are correct.”

This highlights the significance of technology in health care. If we can continue to create and develop these life changing technologies, every person should be able to continue the activities they love no matter what. 

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