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. 🙂