Person in pool wearing freestyle libre CGM.
Getty Images/Dragoljub Bankovic

“The FreeStyle Libre doesn’t require a blood sample from a finger stick. Abbott is a company that makes other diabetes-related products, baby formula, and drinks.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the FreeStyle Libre in 2017 for adults only. Since then, newer versions of the monitor have been produced for adults and children with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

When the FreeStyle Libre was approved by the FDA in 2017, it was considered the first-ever non-blood calibration CGM system. This means you don’t have to use a finger stick to provide a blood sample.

The monitor works by placing a small sensor below the surface of your skin. You need to place the screen monitor above the system to get a reading.

Each sensor lasts up to 14 days. After this time, you’ll need to replace it with a new one. You must continue to purchase new sensors, but you have to buy the monitoring system only once. The monitor itself runs on rechargeable batteries.

FreeStyle Libre pros

  • No blood sample is required.
  • “Doesn’t need a stick.”
  • painless sensor application
  • It is convenient for travel, work, and other times.
  • You can track the trends on your phone with an app you download after you purchase the system.
  • More affordable than other monitors.
  • A waterproof sensor for short periods of swimming and bathing.

FreeStyle Libre cons

  • It may cause irritation at the sensor site.
  • “The original version doesn’t alert you if your blood sugars are off until you check them out.”
  • A traditional blood calibration system may not be as accurate.
  • “The sensor doesn’t measure blood sugar but the cellular fluids.”
  • “You can’t buy the monitor at big-box stores because it’s not allowed to be sold over the counter.”

The breakdown shows how to use the monitor.

1. Insert the sensor

To set up the FreeStyle Libre, you must first insert the sensor into your upper arm with an applicator that’s included with the set. The sensor itself is about the size of a coin and is applied just underneath the top layer of your skin. This process is said to be painless, but some users experience mild skin irritation.

2. Wave the monitor above the sensor

Instead of using a finger stick to check your levels, you wave the monitor above the sensor in your skin to see your levels.

3. Set reminders for yourself

“Reminders are important since the FreeStyle Libre doesn’t have automatic alert when your blood sugar is high. You should check your levels at least once a day.”

4. Switch out the sensor

The original FreeStyle Libre allowed users to wear the sensor wire for up to 10 days before switching it out. Now, you can wear it for up to 14 days at a time.

Like traditional blood glucose monitors, the FreeStyle Libre gives you information about your sugar levels. It can indicate either hyperglycemia, where your glucose levels are too high, or hypoglycemia, where your levels are too low.

The monitor can help you see how your blood sugar levels change over time. You may notice that they are either stabilizing or moving upward or downward. Sharing this information with your doctor will help determine your treatment plan.

Overall, users appreciate the functionality and ease of use of the FreeStyle Libre. But there have been reports of unusual fluctuations in glucose readings, especially during the last day of the sensor’s life.

Research behind the Freestyle Libre

“There are some promising studies that point to the FreeStyle Libre’s benefits for diabetes.”

For example, a 2020 study found a 52% decrease in hospital visits for ketoacidosis in people with type 1 diabetes and a 47% decrease in those with type 2 diabetes.

Despite its approval, the FDA still notes some risks associated with the FreeStyle Libre, including:

  • The skin irritation is from where the sensor wire is inserted.
  • There is a chance for false readings.
  • If you wave the monitor in front of the sensor, you can detect spikes or falls in blood sugar.
  • the possibility of blood glucose issues during sleep, in which the system won’t alert you (unless you’re using the Libre 2 or 3)

Abbott Laboratories, the company that manufactures the FreeStyle Libre, is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau. Also, the BBB page for the company shows multiple active alerts. of the alerts are related to the FreeStyle Libre device, though.

While the BBB page features only 36 customer reviews, recent ones note some potentially life threatening inaccuracy issues with the device. Multiple people complain of faulty and failed sensors and mention having trouble getting replacement ones.

Abbott also has a low rating on Trustpilot, an average of 1.4 out of 5 stars. Most reviews cite poor customer service.

The FreeStyle Libre allows you to take blood samples without using finger sticks.

You may find the FreeStyle Libre easier to use if you have to travel. This CGM is also waterproof for up to 30 minutes at a time. You don’t have to worry about the sensor getting destroyed after a quick swim, shower, or bath. Avoid submerging the sensor beyond a few feet of water.

Who may want to consider other options?

This bloodglucose monitor may not be right for everyone. If your condition causes frequent spikes in blood sugar, your doctor may recommend a traditional blood sugar monitor.

“If you experience symptoms of hypoglycemics that the FreeStyle Libre isn’t showing, you may want to consider having a backup monitor.”

The FreeStyle Libre is not approved for people on the transplant list.

You need to purchase replacement sensors after you purchase the entire system. Each sensor lasts 14 days.

You’ll need a doctor’s prescription to buy the FreeStyle Libre. With private insurance, the monitor costs between $10 and $75 a month. This would equal about two 14-day sensors.

The monitor is also covered by Medicare, though you may still experience out-of-pocket costs for your diabetes care.

The FreeStyle Libre has a lower cost than other CGMs.

The FreeStyle Libre is sold at many stores. It is not available on e-commerce or at big-box stores without a prescription.

Monitor Type How often to replace sensors?
FreeStyle Libre non-finger-stick CGM 14 days
Dexcom G6 non-finger-stick CGM 10 days
Eversense non-finger-stick CGM 90 days
Guardian Connect System non-finger-stick CGM 7 days
Rite Aid TrueMetrix Meter finger-stick glucose meter N/A
Walgreens TrueMetrix Bluetooth Meter finger-stick glucose meter N/A

Other technologies are also expected in the future, such as a laser technique known as Raman spectroscopy.

Your doctor may recommend a traditional blood-calibrating CGM that requires finger sticks for you if you have diabetes.

How much does FreeStyle Libre cost?

The cost depends on whether you have insurance. The average price for the device is about $70. You have to pay for the replacement sensors. Depending on your insurance coverage, these can cost between $10 and $75 a month.

Do you have to be on insulin to use FreeStyle Libre?

“You don’t need to be on the drug to use it. The device is intended to help regulate blood sugar levels in people who need to use a drug.”

How often does the FreeStyle Libre take readings?

The device takes readings.

The FreeStyle Libre is a bloodglucose monitor that does not require blood samples or finger sticks. The readings are based on a sensor on your arm that can be on for 14 days.

You can check your levels at any time, but you should do it at least every 8 hours. You can wave the monitor in front of the sensor.

“The FreeStyle Libre is more affordable than other types of monitors, but it may not be the right one for every person with diabetes. The system can carry the risk of inaccurate readings and it doesn’t automatically alert you if yourglucose is dangerous.”

Discuss the FreeStyle Libre with your doctor. They can help you figure out which system is right for you.