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If You Use a CGM, Avoid Tylenol

by Karyn Michelle Wofford

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Many diabetics, including myself, enjoy the luxury of not having to stick their fingers six times a day, because they use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM).

A CGM works by using a sensor with a tiny wire that is injected under the skin, which is able to sense glucose levels in the fluid that resides in the fatty tissue. While these devices are truly awesome, there are still some kinks.

Studies have reported that Tylenol (Acetaminophen), falsely increases glucose readings.

Tylenol can affect readingS for up to 8 hours after ingestion, causing diabetics to think their blood sugar is up to four times higher than it actually is. Very scary. The chemical created by the pain reliever when it oxidizes, affects the sensor’s reading. Women tend to see more of an effect. There was no reason listed.

What to do

Obviously, try to avoid Tylenol unless your doctor instructs otherwise. If you find it necessary, or if you popped one and forgot…don’t panic. You’ll just have to go old school for a few hours. That’s right, pull out the finger poker and test that way. Traditional glucose testing isn’t affected by the drug. Before you start relying on your CGM again, make sure your regular monitor is matching up with its results.

Is Tylenol the only CGM disrupter?

Nope. Vitamin C supplements, excessive uric acid in the body (usually those with gout have this) and excessive site bleeding can mess with the monitor.

Consume Vitamin C in recommended amounts and try to get it naturally from food like fruits.

If you are having excessive site bleeding, you will likely need to remove the sensor and attach a new one.

Talk to your doctor if you use a CGM and suspect you may have gout. Symptoms include:

-Severe Pain and Tenerness Around Joints

-Joint Swelling

-Purple-ish or Red Skin

-Flaky, Dry Skin at the Site

Gout is treatable and physical exercise and weight management can prevent it. If you suspect gout, start double checking blood sugar levels with a finger stick meter until you can get to the doctor.

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CGM’s are getting better

They still have their quirks, but are constantly being improved and researched. Not long ago, patients were told they should not inject insulin or select a pump site near their blood sugar sensor. Researchers have since dismissed that.

I just received a Dexcom 5 system a week ago. It seems to be more accurate and I can use my phone as my receiver…via Bluetooth. It’s incredibly convenient since, like almost everyone, I always have my phone on me.

They are worth a little hassle

I have my CGM struggles:

Number one…the adhesive stinks so you need to have good medical tape on hand. (I recommend Tegaderms).

Number two… It needs to be calibrated daily, so your not completely finger stick free.

Number three…Insertion is, on occasion, a little uncomfortable. Not intolerable though.

Number four…I find it a little annoying to always have something attached to my body.

The benefitS far outweigh the negatives though. Being able to have a constant feed of my numbers has improved my A1c and overall health. The low alarm has literally saved me many times and gives me so much peace when I lay down at night.

When you start prepping to merge to a CGM, just do your research and learn about your new device. There is always new information available to help you further understand the machine and help prevent complications, as in the case of Tylenol. A few days ago, I had no idea it was a problem.

Overall, they are very worth the extra effort.