{Editor's Note: This is not a formal product review, like the one we published in November; this is a post about a personal relationship with a piece of essential technology.}

Just about exactly one year ago, I reported discovering that I was happier when not wearing a CGM. Now the Dexcom G4 has come along and changed my mind, again.

As noted in our 2012 Revelations post, when continuous glucose monitoring is accurate and user-friendly, I find it to be an incredible tool that actually becomes difficult to live without!

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I've been living with the G4 since mid-November, am actually enjoying the experience, and feeling pretty darn lost when I'm disconnected. It is not perfect -- but what a difference from the older model!

Specifically, my complaints with older-generation CGM were:

- itchy, uncomfortable adhesive that often wouldn't stay put

- far too many unnecessary beeps (overnight!!), with sounds not adjustable either in tone or volume

- too limited transmission range, which caused mine to poop out multiple times a day

- LOTS of inaccurate readings, or at least numbers that didn't hardly match up with my fingerstick meter

- as one reader noted, CGM sensors tend to be "fussy little devices" and that old egg-shaped, black-and-white-screen receiver did not appeal to me at all.

With this next generation, Dexcom has addressed nearly all of these issues, and certainly made the device 100% more liveable, if you ask me. And liveable is what it's all about, right? Because no patients will get any value out of tech devices that they cannot stand to live with on a daily basis.

Sticky Issues

I'll admit I had a rough start with the G4. The first three or four sensors I tried simply refused to stick to me for more than 2 or 3 days. As you may know, I've always had skin issues with medical adhesives, and was beginning to think I'd have to rule out the G4 on teflon troubles alone.

But the Dexcom rep came to the rescue with a whole host of suggestions:

- use a loufa scrub to exfoliate the dead skin on your site area before insertion

- steer clear of steamy bathrooms when making site changes

- put pressure on all sides of the dressing when you first adhere it

- possibly use a ziplock baggie to cover the sensor while showering (OK, this one's a pain in the #@$!)

- when exercising, use deodorant around the site to ward off perspiration

- try Skin Tac wipes from Torbot for site prep

- when using prep wipes, be sure to leave the middle spot dry where sensor wire will penetrate the skin

- if the adhesive gets "ruffly" during wear, trim the edges

- for additional paste-down, try Blenderm Medical Tape from 3M

I went out and bought the first loufa of my life, and discovered that it's nice to exfoliate (!), especially in hard-to-reach itchy spots. But back to the CGM: it does seem to help, because between loufa-ing and the Skin Tac wipes, my sensors are sticking incredibly well now! And they hardly itch, either.

Helpful disclosures on above tips: Watch out for Skin Tac! It works great, but it's like superglue on your fingers, so have a medical adhesive remover wipe handy as an antidote; using deodorant around the site before exercising was a disgusting mess -- not recommended!; spending an extra minute or two pressing down the adhesive when first inserted seems worth the time, if a little funny-looking to anyone sharing your bathroom; and pasting a ziplock to your belly before showering?! I think not! That's worse than the first-gen CGM, which required special waterproof covers, and those at least were mostly custom fit with built-in adhesive. I have not yet tried the Blenderm Tape, and would only consider this as a last resort ('cause medical tape all over my tummy is way-low on my "live-ability" list, of course!)

Speaking of Live-ability

Why do I find this model so much more appealing? First off, accuracy. In almost two months of wear, I haven't found the readings more than 20 points off what I'm getting on my OmniPod's built-in meter, so I have a sense of trust in CGM for the first time ever.

Because of the increased accuracy, it's no longer like living with a fussy newborn, bound to set off screaming at any time of day or night for no compelling reason. Nope, I've only had to hide it in my underwear drawer once in nearly eight weeks -- and that was a night where I really was hovering too close to my low alarm range.

The increased transmission range (quadrupled up to 20 feet!) is also a HUGE factor for me. I can now go into the next room, or even upstairs sometimes, come back and discover no interruption in my continuous glucose readings -- fantastic! AND, when it does lose the signal, it seems to take just a few minutes to reconnect once I'm back in range, without going all haywire and showing me ??? messages and crazy-off readings like the older model did.

Everything else is pretty much about the form factor. Design Matters! I'd like to shout that from the rooftops!

This thing looks and feels far more like modern consumer technology, and the color screen makes an incredible difference for me. I can't even explain why, but the screen "pops" and speaks to me a thousand times more than the old drab shades-of-grey screen did. I guess for anyone who grew up with color TV (hello, I'm not that old!), color creates a visceral reaction necessary for us to "wake up and smell the coffee," so to speak.

Of course, you now get color options for the Receiver unit itself. I chose Ocean Blue. But since most of us carry our Dex in that still-dorky black case most of the time, we don't get much benefit from the fun cover colors, IMHO.

You can set the alarm tones to Vibrate, Soft, or Normal, so basically two volume settings -- which is one more than we had before! I prefer "Soft," which is plenty loud, especially when you are sleeping, believe me. Aside from the "Normal" beep, you can also choose a tone called "Attentive," a funky digital jingle that I don't find appealing at all -- but again, it's more user choice than we've ever had with a CGM in the past.

Things Unchanged

As noted in our earlier review by Wil Dubois, the inserter contraption has not changed one bit ("same dental tool from hell," he writes -- he, he!) I would have liked something with less of a voilent plunge, but I still find it better than Medtronic's inserter beast, and at least the insertion is over in seconds and only required once every seven days.

What surprises me is the claim that the sensor is now 60% smaller. Sixty percent is a lot! But as a user, I find the sensor doesn't feel one bit smaller. In fact, the rounded top makes it feel even a little more protruding than the old squared-off design. But the softer corners definitely add to a sense of increased comfort.

I just watched Dexcom's promo video again for perspective, and had to smirk at those models looking so delighted to carry their Receivers around, checking them every 20 seconds while exercising, eating, sleeping, walking, etc. What remains unchanged for me as a drawback of CGM wear overall is the constant nagging obligation to keep track of yet another device that needs calibrating and charging, and beeps at me after every meal plus plenty of other times too. Shoot! Did I leave it on the bedside table? Or in that jacket pocket? Did I forget the charger on this trip...? Oh shut up now, I know I'm high after breakfast! Geez...

Trade-Off Hurdles

Yes, I am grateful (moreso now than ever) for the insight CGM gives me into my ever-changing BG levels. But the choice we have to make with every diabetes / medical tool available is whether the benefit is worth the trade-off in hassle and aggravation. Does it actually make your life with diabetes better, or just more complicated?

As far as the G4 sensor and Receiver go, I'd say Dexcom finally cleared the trade-off hurdle. Hooray! I'm planning to stick with this one for a good long while.

My next challenge is to start playing with the new Dexcom Studio Software, which I've just now downloaded on my PC, but would prefer to use on my MacBook, truth be told. This new logging software is supposed to be Mac compatible, but other early users report that the USB driver for the G4 doesn't seem to be working on iMac, so you may need to download the data using a PC and then move it yourself to iMac, every time you want to download data. Ugh! See statement above about making life better versus more complicated.

For me personally, no logging tool has cleared the trade-off hurdle for continuous use yet, but I remain hopeful, as always.

[Please note: Dexcom Disclosure. I was not paid to write about this product; all opinions are personal and completely uncensored.]

 
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This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.