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Short Dexcom Break.

It’s not just a matter of slapping on a new sensor, queuing it up, and making use of the data once it’s available on the graph.  Wearing a Dexcom sensor has now become this intricate pseudo-science of site rotation, skin maintenance, and scheduling, thanks to the dreaded Dexcom rash.

My first skin irritation from the Dexcom sensor popped up in August 2012.  It seemed that, overnight, my skin bloomed into this gross, oozing rash underneath the sensor adhesive, making me pull the sensor off after barely 24 hours due to excessive itch and irritation.  At first, I left sensors on too long, coaxing a bright red, blistering rash out on my skin.  It was nasty.  It looked like a chemical burn, and it itched like a son-of-a-bitch.  (How literal is that expression?  Also, there’s a whole Wiki entry on the word “bitch” and it’s fascinating.)

Now, over a year later, keeping the Dexcom as part of my life means bringing in some extra bits and pieces, things like a steroid inhaler, adhesive tape, and wound patches to act as skin barriers.  90% of the time, these strategies work great and I’m able to earn the FDA-approved seven days out of each sensor, without compromising accuracy or comfort.  Usually, one sensor is pulled and I put a new one on immediately, leaving me data-free for only the two hour calibration period.  Seven day seems to be enough time for one site to heal while I use another one, so the rotation from thigh-to-thigh works really well.

But 10% of the time, I need to take a break for a few days in order to let my skin heal.

I’m currently in that 10% moment, and it sort of sucks, because I miss that data security, big time.

After pulling my sensor off on Monday morning, I noticed that my skin was redder than usual, and a little puffy from reaction to the adhesive.  It itched like mad, and looked angry.  I’m traveling for work next week, so I want to make sure the sensor I have on as I’m switching time zones and taking red-eye flights is good to go.  I decided to give my skin a two or three day break, planning to stick the new sensor on Thursday morning so it would be in awesome-mode by the weekend.

I’ve been wearing the Dexcom every single day (with few exceptions) since I was pregnant, and being without the CGM data is a hard adjustment.  Before bed is particularly tricky, because I rely on the IOB on my pump and the direction of my CGM graph to dictate whether or not I set an alarm for 3 am to check my blood sugar.

Last night:  My blood sugar was 182 mg/dL before bed at midnight.  I had eaten a late meal (10.15 pm), so there was some insulin on board from that bolus.  I had gone to the gym to run around 7 pm, so there was residual exercise in the mix, too.  Normally, I’d pop my low alarm up to 70 mg/dL on the Dexcom and stick it in a glass overnight, but without the CGM to help guide me, I set the alarm for 3.30 am.

(In)Conveniently, Birdy woke up at 2 am, so I tested then (150 mg/dL).  I took a correction bolus and checked again at 3.30 am (110 mg/dL), and woke up this morning at 104 mg/dL.

Even though it worked out fine, blood sugar-wise, it was the insecurity of not having access to streaming blood sugar data that made me twitch.  The sensor is bulky and the receiver is easy to forget, at times, but the inconvenience of robot parts is outweighed by the information I get from a CGM.

… which makes me look forward to Thursday’s sensor reboot almost as much as I’m looking forward to Sunday’s second-to-last Breaking Bad.  🙂

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who goes looking for the etymology of dirty words. Dirty word origins and CGM data…. the more you know!

    09/17/13; 10:42 am
  2. Tammy #

    I’m currently on a 2 day Dex break due to not ordering sensors soon enough. (And one last hoorah at the lake on Sunday causing my sensor to have to be pulled early). 🙂 Totally worth it but I feel so insecure without the information. Almost as insecure as I feel about Breaking Bad ending. :-[

    09/17/13; 12:42 pm
  3. Kristine V. #

    I can totally relate to that insecurity of not wearing the Dexcom. I actually think I’m a bit too obsessed with it, because I check it all-the-time and even though it can bug the hell out of me I still choose to wear it. Now I can’t even imagine a life without it, or how I was able to live before not having a CGM. I always say that it’s my best friend, but also my worst enemy. Good days are really good, and bad days can just go suck it.

    I’m sad that you have this rash, and I do hope soon there will be more alternatives as to where to keep the CGM. Like having a small chip underneath your skin, and not needing to change it at all, it just stays there.. And conveniently sends signals with blood sugar levels to your iPhone, or HTC, or whatever..

    How long had you been wearing your Dexcom before the rash started? And how do you cope with the double falling arrows and all the beeeeping? I’m experiencing some sort of panic attacks each and every single time.. And my mind just won’t let it go.

    Hugs <3

    09/17/13; 3:30 pm
  4. Steve #

    A possible reason for developing an allergy to the Dexcom adhesive is the damage to skin and capillaries that can accompany tearing off a strongly adhered sensor at the end of its 7-day duty. Be gentle. Consider using an adhesive remover such as Uni-Solve just to be sure your immune system does not associate Dexcom patches with damage.

    09/17/13; 6:16 pm
  5. Miriam #

    A family friend of mine who’s a doctor gave me some excellent advice about how to deal with my (impossible to treat) eczema. I think her advice might help you clear up your rashes faster when they flare.

    Step 1: Spread a Very Thin layer of a steroid cream over the rash
    Step 2: Put a moisturizer over that (I like Aveeno, but anything works)
    Step 3: Cover it with Saran Wrap
    Step 4: Sleep with your leg wrapped up like a salami

    It makes me feel like I’m trying to keep my eczema fresh for later use, but in the morning it’s usually loads better, even though steroid creams don’t usually help me.

    I hope this helps. Good luck with the Dexcom rash and the lack of CGM input!

    09/17/13; 11:22 pm
  6. Beth #

    Do you have a reaction at your infusion set sites too?

    Have you ever used the Omnipod system? If so did you have same issue and if not is this why you don’t use Omnipod?

    . I am a new pumper ( late onset type 1 seven years ago) for past three months and thought Omnipod would be the easiest system to live with after insulin pens failed to keep my sugar lows and highs in control. I find the pain at the cannula area gets bad and I have a red bump(looks like a large pimple) for days that fades but is still there weeks later ( albeit flat and faded). This has left me with pink spots all over my stomach and making finding a good spot for next pod (running out of real estate) difficult. Endo is suggesting switching to t slim so need to know if you are having the same issue with infusion sets. Need advice!

    09/19/13; 10:16 am
  7. janette #

    I too have late on- set type 1. …I recently (july 2013) went in the OMNIPOD Pump, i have to say so far so good. My Diabetes Nurse recommended I try using “Cavilon Barrier Spray” and so far it works wonderfully, no skin irritation. I am in Canada so not sure if you can get it in USA.


    09/24/13; 6:47 pm
  8. sumi islam #

    I had eaten a late meal (10.15 pm), so there was some insulin on board from that bolus. I had gone to the gym to run around 7 pm, so there was residual exercise in the mix, too. Normally, I’d pop my low alarm up to 70 mg/dL on the Dexcom and stick

    02/8/14; 9:17 am

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