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Acting Rashly.

I slapped on my first Dexcom sensor over five years ago, using the old Dexcom STS system that lasted three days and you had to wear the giant sticky shower patch over the sensor to keep it from becoming water-logged.  (And I had to walk uphill both ways to get to the endocrinologist's office, dagnabit.)  Since first wearing the system, I've been addicted to the information, and I feel like I had the best pregnancy I could pull of as a result of following the graph.

Over the years, I've had few issues with the Dexcom, but early on, I saw a handful of weird rashes.  Thankfully, for the last few years (since about 2009), I haven't had any Dexcom-related skin issues.  Which means I've been suited up as a CGM robot without issue for years.

So why am I, all of a sudden, busting out with strange, itchy red rashes right underneath the sensor?  Two weeks ago, I put a new sensor on and after about five days, it was starting to itch like mad.  The results it was giving were spot-on with my meter, and I'm always reluctant to pull a sensor out too early (because even though they're usually fine once they're in, I hate the process of putting a new sensor on - creeps me out).  But the itch was tremendous, so on day six, I pulled the sensor off and was greeted by a raised, red welt-looking patch of skin, previously hidden by the actual transmitter.  It looked like a weird chemical burn.  And it itchy like crazytown.

After two days of bathroom home remedies (neosporin and a Muppet Show bandaid - thanks for lending me the "Kermit Frog" one, Birdy), the welt calmed down and reduced to a small patch of scaly-looking skin.  Now, almost a week later, it's just about completely healed and looks like it's about to peel, like a sunburnt spot. 

But the same day I pulled the old sensor, I put a new one on.  And damned if that thing didn't start to itch a few days later, too.  I only made it three days into that one (because I didn't want to encourage a weeping skin rash), and sure enough, a fledgling patch of itch was brewing up underneath that site, too.  The sensor I put on three days ago is on my left thigh and currently tingling, which makes me worry that I'm headed for a hat trick of itchiness. 

I knew I'd heard of this kind of reaction to sensors, pump sites, etc, so I searched online for some PWDs who had encountered itchy Dexcom sensors, and it became clear I wasn't blazing (scratching?) a new path.  Whole forum discussions were available on TuDiabetes and Children With Diabetes, detailing what is becoming unfortunately familiar to me. And Lorraine at This is Caleb has documented this skin irritation issue in a way that had me nodding in agreement and then itching in commiseration with Caleb.

The only time a flatline is quality.

Having used a CGM for over five years, I really value the information it gives me.  ("Value" also equals "am addicted to," because even in the weeks when I'm a little sloppier about my diabetes management, I'm still extremely grateful when the Dexcom wakes me up from a hypo in the middle of the night.  I can't properly describe what that kind of safety net means to me.)  So I'm not willing to give up my CGM, not even for a few days.  (In the last three years, I've taken it off so rarely that I feel creepy without it on.)

So now, it's about figuring out how to keep from acting rashly.  I have an arsenal of skin prep and barrier tapes to try out, and I'm hoping there's a combination that keeps my skin safe and my Dexcom fired up.  In the meantime:  I scratch my head (and site) in confusion.

Comments

Geez, my Dexcom site didn't itch until after I read your post!

I have experienced the itching and irritated sensor areas off and on since I stared using the system a few months ago. Please share with us if you find anything that works to relieve it!

My daughter (the diabetic) has that same issue with her pump site! She has now started to put tegaderm, down first, then put her pump site right through it. Now that rash and itchy red bumps are gone! She would itch so bad that they would bleed! I think maybe the adhesive has been changed?

Have you changed soap or shampoo lately? They can be a culprit in my house.

Hi! We put a layer of Flexifix underneath Dex (with a little cutout for the wire), and then strips of it around it as well. Haven't had any skin issues since using this approach! Good luck :)

Do you clean the area with alcohol before inserting it? The reason I ask is I had (and still have sometimes) the same issue. ITCHES like a bee sting! One thing I stopped doing is cleaning the area with alcohol. It's stripping the moisture your skin needs and then putting tape over it. I only clean the new area for mine with soap for sensitive skin now before inserting a new one. It helps a bit.

Yep, Tegaderm patch down first, then pierce through it with the sensor.

Good luck!

Try Benadryl SPRAY (not gel,cream, lotion, etc. HAS TO BE the SPRAY since that won't affect the stickiness of the tape) before putting the site on... spray the area (but be sure to remember where you sprayed as is dries amazingly clear) let dry, then proceed as usual with the sensor insertion. That worked better for me than ANY barrier wipes or physical barriers like sensitive skin tape on the skin then sensor or site on top of that...

I have a friend who slaps on some tegaderm underneath the sensor. works like a charm for her.

I wonder if Dexcom changed anything? might be worth asking.

As a last resort, there is another company selling sensors and just 'cause you're allergic to one doesn't mean you'd be allergic to the other. I feel like I've run into more people with issues with Dexcom sensor than minimed ones, but I was itchy and in big pain nonstop with minimed sensors and have been only minimally and occasionally itchy with Dexcom.

I've experienced itchiness with certain kinds of adhesives--and I know the pump companies and others using such adhesives change their recipes from time to time. So I'm Anne Dowling; I'd ask Dexcom if they changed anything.

Hate to say it but I hope it's just YOUR problem. I cannot live without Dexom. Last time I fried Dex in salt water (not recommended) I was afraid to even go to sleep for fear of going low w/o warning. Luckily, they FED-Xed me one the next day. Hope you figure it out.

Best of luck Kerri. I know exactly what you mean about not wanting to be without the Dexcom. I've been wearing one for over 5 years, and when I lost my transmitter recently it was terrible waiting the 2 days for the replacement to arrive.

I've got no experience with these sorts of things (T1D but no Dex, no pump) - but I do get random skin rashes (contact dermatitis i'm told) from who knows what, UNLESS I take a daily antihistamine (Arius works best)... wonder if it would help with adhesive reactions?

I JUST started the Dex, and yes, I'm experiencing itchiness problems. So I have no history to report, but I wonder if they changed the adhesive recently? I know I do fine with IV3000 and Hypafix, but I itch horribly and break out with Tegaderm. So it might be worth it to find out if they've made any changes (and let us know!)

My daughter developed an allergy to all adhesives. (Tegaderm, Flexifix, barrier wipes...tried them all) The only thing we have found that helps and stays on like glue is a Johnson and Johnson Tough Pad. We cut a hole in the tough pad and stick Dex on the tough pad, then stick in on her and insert Dex. It is heat activated, so you have to hold your had around the edges to get it to stick at first, but then that sucker is on! She has to work to get it off (even after 14 days!). Good luck to you! It is bad enough to be attached to this equipment all the time, but then to be allergic to it really, really stinks!!

I have had this issue with both pump and CGM sites (only using a pump now). With my pump sites, it seems to happen only on my stomach area and only during the warmer months. I'm a pretty tough cookie, but the itching can become unbearable! I will scratch so hard that I actually bruise around my site (and I will scratch in my sleep). The only solution I've found is to put a layer of tegaderm or Optsite flexifix directly on my skin before inserting my set. I don't put any skin tac or adhesive directly on my skin. That has done the trick and cuts down the itching and bumps to almost zilch.

Have u tried using coloplast skin barrier spray? My endo suggested it for me due to massiv skin rashes, I'm not sure if it's available in the us under that particular name, however it's a skin barrier spray used by ostomy patients to protect the skin that's between the ostomy bag and the fluids... They spray have helped me alot in preventing the rashes...

I'm not familiar with the structure of the dexcom - but I am familiar with the itchy followed by the scaly. We actually covered the bottom of my son's transmitter with a piece of cloth tape - then the tape is touching his skin, not the plastic. To be clear - his issue was not with the adhesive, but with the plastic of the transmitter. (Nexcare is what we use, I buy it by the case!)
Hope you find a solution - itching is the worst!

I developed a skin allergy to most adhesives and the itchiness caused by the sensors for the Dexcom is one of the reasons I had to stop using it - instead of becoming scaly and peeling like you, though, my rashes actually turn into scars. Yikes... hopefully this can be fixed in the future because I really loved my Dex.

I use skin tac.

But the skin tac screws up the readings if you insert the thingy (pregnancy brain... Doh!) through it. So you have to make like circle/bullseye where the adhesive part goes and insert the thingy into the little circle where you didn't put the skin tac.

Hope that makes sense.

I have the exact same issue. My endo prescribed steroid cream. I rub a little dab on my new site approximately 5 min prior to insertion. It's a huge help!

My T1 daughter has been using "Dexter" since the old STS days too, and has not had any problems to date. But I'm about to order a new batch of sensors and I, too, wonder if Dexcom is doing anything even slightly different with materials or manufacturing. Seems weird to have this develop after so many years... Yikes!

Hi Kerri,
Not sure if you remember me, but I introduced you last year at the Biltmore for a JDRF event. 
I have had allergic reactions to infusion set and CGM tape for years. 
Here's an ingenious treatment I have been using for 15 years.  I use a steroid asthma inhaler after I rub the skin with IV prep or alcohol. The asthma protects the skin. It has solved my itch for many years. 
I use QVAR. That is the cheapest. There are other brands. 
Let me know if you want more info. 
Thanks for the blog. I read daily. 
Best, 
Lori

Ahhh, welcome to getting older and those fun hormones that wreck havoc to your world with adhesives and you may also notice welts from tight fitting bras as well. Use the IV3000 on your skin before placing the CGM Sensor on. Before placing the IV3000 on fold it in half and cut a triangle in it to "shoot" the sensor thru into you.

I have this problem with all tapes and have for years. I use benadryl spray on top of the tape when it itches. It will seep through-- this helps keep me comfortable for several days. It also really helps to blow dry the tape area lightly after I get out of the shower.

At my endocrinologist appointment this morning she mentioned that she heard rumors from Dexcom reps that in the next few months they may be changing the applicator for the sensor so it is less "scary." Have you heard anything? I hate the looks of that thing, and it is the only needle I hate!

I have no sensor irritation, but have read about someone (on a pumpers' e-mail list) who was using Flovent (an asthma inhaler!) to spray on his sites before applying adhesive. It might have been infusion sites rather than sensor sites. Sounds crazy to me, and I wonder how his doc. justified an inhaler to be used as a topical application, but I guess one shouldn't mess with success!

I also use an asthma inhaler sprayed on to dry before I put on the Dexcom sensor. I was having a terrible time with the adhesive and my doc suggested it. It really works well.

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