Taking Control of Diabetes

Don’t let the technology of it all intimidate you. Setting up the CGMs is pretty easy and, if you get stuck, there’s an entire online community ready to help.

09 September 2018

I’ve been a Type 1 diabetic since 2006. I’m still using, and prefer, Multiple Daily Injections (MDI) – a strict routine of injecting insulin into my body at set times. The big change came during 2014/2015, when CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitors) hit the market. Before the CGM era, I had four serious and dangerous hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) episodes. Since using a CGM, I was able to prevent serious hypoglycaemia events. These devices measure your glucose levels every five minutes, without performing a finger prick.

1536491786 34 diabetes  3  logo

The life changing benefits of using this technology:

  • You know your levels all the time. You know when they are going down, so that you can eat before reaching a low. You know when they are going up, so that you can inject before it gets too high.
  • The technology gives you more control in managing the disease.
  • You have a much better understanding of what certain foods do to your glucose levels, because almost immediately you can see the effect of what you eat on the glucose graph. It changed the way I eat, for the better. I know when to eat what and what to avoid.
  • You have a much better understanding of what the amount of injected insulin does to your glucose levels.
  • It gives you the confidence to do lots of exercise. Previously it sounded scary to go for a long run, but by using this technology I could go for a long run, feeling confident that I can manage my sugar levels.
  • I sleep much better, knowing that an alarm will go off if my sugar levels drop too low while sleeping.
  • Remote monitoring allows your loved ones to check on you while you are not home.
  • Knowing my levels and what they are doing helped me so much that I can still manage them well, even when I have to eat the “wrong” foods, because I know I can take control much faster and easier.
  • My Glycated Hemoglobin (HbA1c) level has been between 5.8 and 6.2 since using the technology – not easy to achieve without it. And this without having to be on a low-carb or special diet.

The most popular CGMs on the market today are the Freestyle Libre, Dexcom, Eversense and sensors from Medtronic. They all vary in cost and provide different features, so do some research to determine which one would work best for you. Sadly, only the very expensive medical aid plans cover the cost of these devices. Currently the Freestyle Libre is the cheapest.

All of these CGMs have their own official software applications or receiver devices. However, the #WeAreNotWaiting open source solutions have far more features and support for all the devices. The Nightscout xDrip+ mobile application can be downloaded here,while the source code is available here. If you have any questions about setting it up, you can visit the Gitter forum for guidance from those who’ve already gone through this process.

For more information on the NightScout project, you can check out this quick introduction.

Remote monitoring and alarms are only possible when you use an add-on module that can send the values to your phone via bluetooth. The current add-on modules available are Blucon or MiaoMiao. You don't need to calibrate this sensor and the best of all: no finger pricks needed.

Don’t let the technology of it all intimidate you. Setting up the CGMs is pretty easy and, if you get stuck, there’s an entire online community ready to help.

Written by: Jaco Cronjé – Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and supporter of the #WeAreNotWaiting movement