Anyone who's worn a diabetes device stuck to their body knows that some type of skin issues with the adhesives are pretty much inevitable. Typical scenarios include:
- An infusion set or sensor gets bumped on a wall corner or door jam and rips off your skin.
- Allergic reactions, itching and redness (or worse) due to some component in the adhesive that often irritates more over time.
- Super glue-level stickiness, taking off a layer of skin and leaving a mark and/or gunky residue when it's finally removed.
Yep, the struggle is real.
While many life hacks exist and web forums are full of tips and tricks, it doesn't eliminate the challenges... Heck, people have been suffering from allergies to simple Band-aids and medical tape for as long as they've been around, so this is all very common.
Fortunately, diabetes device companies are aware of these issues and doing what they can to improve adhesives to help PWDs live more comfortably.
Over the years, we've heard industry talk about new innovations that might someday include different levels of stickiness for people to choose from, or even "smart" adhesives that could automatically adjust to one's skin. None of that's materialized yet and it could be a pipe dream, but it shows the level of interest, at least in theory.
At least for two popular glucose monitoring devices, we've heard some updates on real adhesive change that's actually "stuck" (pun intended).
Dexcom’s Adhesive Improvements
Early in the year, we heard rumors that Dexcom had changed its adhesive in order to address the issue of allergic reactions and rashes that some experience. A common theme was that Dexcom sensors manufactered with an expiration date after August 2017 had the new sticky, but it was never confirmed officially by the company anywhere publicly or during earnings calls. Still, firsthand experiences from PWDs using the newer Dexcom products report having fewer or even no rashes and breakouts as they had in the past.
Dexcom has clearly been aware of these adhesive issues dating back to the original CGM days, to the point that it even has a specific technical support page where you can report adhesive issues.
We pressed the California CGM company for more information, but Dexcom wouldn't elaborate on specific changes, or even respond about how much of an issue this has been.
In their official FAQ, Dexcom explains the adhesive makeup: “It is a pressure sensitive acrylic adhesive coated on top of a polyester spunlace fabric. The plastic housing is attached to the patch by direct pressure and heat. There is no latex or bovine components in the adhesive.”
If you know what all those compounds are, props to you. The rest of us can only guess at what exactly makes Dexcom’s sensors sticky, and why those components often irritate the skin.
From around the D-Community, a number of users purport to know the details about Dexcom's supposed adhesive changes:
“Dexcom changed the bonding agent that binds the plastic ho the adhesive portion. So people that were actually allergic to the adhesive itself are still out of luck,” one PWD said on a Facebook forum recently.
A user from Australian claims their local Dexcom reseller told them, "The only change between the 'new and improved sensor' and the previous sensor is the way that the clear sensor base is bonded to the adhesive pad. With the older pads, the clear sensor base was glued to the adhesive pad whereas with new sensors the clear sensor base is heat-bonded to the adhesive, therefore eliminating the adhesive that had been causing much of the irritations."
Dexcom isn’t alone, as other D-device companies – Insulet, Abbott, Medtronic, and more -- have addressed adhesive issues over the years without publicizing details.
Freestyle Libre Adhesive
We understand that Abbott Diabetes has already made some changes to the adhesive of the new FreeStyle Libre "Flash Glucose Monitoring" system. This is the system that's been available internationally for a few years but was just FDA approved in America and will begin shipping here in December.
There's been a lot of chatter among users about the sensor causing rashes much like Dexcom does, and earlier this year we heard that Abbott had changed its adhesive. The company even conducted a clinical study showing some of the issues PWDs experience from the adhesives, and then issued a special guide in August for people to navigate adhesion woes.
Finding Help and Solutions
- A very active and popular Facebook group called Dexcom and Libre Rashes, which is chock full of tips and tricks on how people tackle these issues.
- A comprehensive guide from Diabetes Forecast magazine published early this year.
- A brief video from Diabetes Daily on how to keep your pump/CGM site on longer.
- For anyone with a decorative flair, an array of fun stickers from providers including GrifGrips, RockaDex and Expression Med keep firm hold more lively than traditional medical tape or products.
What About YOU? Any thoughts to share on the makeup of device adhesives, or insights on what works or does not work for you? Let us know!