10 August 2017
By Tom O’Sullivan
When professional toy maker Lars Edman isn’t building the world’s largest miniature battle scene, he is waging war on a battle of a very personal kind. For the past 30 years, Lars has lived with diabetes facing daily challenges and health scares along the way but hasn’t allowed his condition to stop him from living life to the fullest.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that occurs when our blood glucose is too high. Blood glucose is the body’s main source of energy and comes from the food we eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into our cells to be used for energy. When our bodies cannot make enough insulin, or doesn’t use insulin well, too much glucose stays in the blood and can cause serious. long term health problems.
For Marcoom local Lars, who runs the successful Prince August toy company, being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 1985 was a shock and has led to a lifetime of carefully monitoring his condition several times a day in order to prevent health complications such as heart, kidney, eye or foot problems. But the complex condition does not keep the businessman down. “I try to ensure that it has as little impact as possible”, says the busy businessman who exports miniature toy soldiers, Tolkien figures, fantasy characters and collectors’ pieces worldwide from his manufacturing base in Kilnamartyra. The company also makes historically accurate pieces from different historical periods from the Napoleonic period to the Battle of the Boyne and the Romans.
“Living with diabetes means that you must learn to follow strict rules around diet, exercise and glucose measurement. I have to test my blood sugar levels frequently in order to avoid ‘spikes’ – where the level of glucose in my blood is either too high or too low, which can result in loss of consciousness and in extreme cases lead to a coma. For me, trying to monitor my blood glucose when I was leading an active lifestyle as well as running a busy company was very awkward and as a result, I was not managing my condition well, resulting in regular ‘spikes’” .
A person with diabetes typically self-monitors their glucose by pricking their fingers to draw a drop of blood that is added to a test strip and inserted into a glucose meter. This needs to be done several times a day to check glucose levels and can be painful. “Unless you are diabetic you don’t realise how sore your fingertips get – and it’s a constant pain”, says Lars.
However more recently Lars’ day-to-day life has improved thanks to a revolutionary glucose sensing technology, called FreeStyle Libre developed by Abbott. Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System means that adults and children (aged 4 years and older), living with diabetes in Ireland, who need to take multiple daily injections of insulin can now monitor their diabetes without the pain and hassle of routine finger pricks.
The system consists of a small, round sensor — approximately the size of two stacked 50-cent coins — which Lars wears on the back of his upper arm. He uses a small handheld reader, and imply swipes it over the sensor to get a glucose result painlessly in less than one second, without the need to draw blood. The sensor is replaced every 14 days and the reader will work through clothing such as a jumper or shirt. Each scan displays a real-time glucose result, a historical trend and the direction the glucose is heading.
“FreeStyle Libre has changed my life! I am managing my diabetes better and feeling a lot healthier. Because it is so easy to scan my glucose levels and I can do it discretely, even when I am in a business meeting”, says Lars. “It gives me access to a wealth of data on my blood glucose levels, so I can adjust my insulin, diet and exercise regime as required. It’s also great to see what my glucose levels were trending while I was asleep. I get a complete reading every 15 minutes without routine finger sticks, and I get great comfort in being able to check my levels at any time.”
“It has given me great freedom and the confidence to live a very full, active life. It’s really important for anyone who has been recently diagnosed with diabetes to remain positive and to keep doing the activities they love. Over time you get to understand your diabetes and you can make the adjustments necessary to manage it better. I try to control your diabetes and not allow it to control me”, he adds.
The reader holds up to 90 days of data, providing a historical snapshot of glucose levels over time. The Abbott FreeStyle Libre software enables the data to be presented in a user-friendly, visual chart enabling a more productive discussion with healthcare professionals around treatment and any necessary modification to it. The system is popular with clinicians, who say it helps both them and their patients better understand their glucose patterns and consequently control their diabetes. Parents of children with diabetes are also delighted with FreeStyle Libre as they can now take blood glucose readings while their child is asleep – they no longer have to wake their child in the middle of the night to take a finger prick test. The user-friendly system is also perfect for first time users, simplifying an otherwise time-consuming and invasive process of measuring glucose.
Barbara Scott, Country Manager of Abbott’s Diabetes business in Ireland, explains: “The FreeStyle Libre system is a game changer. The system is discrete and easy-to-use and provides a comprehensive profile of a patient’s glucose levels, bringing much-needed insights and reassurance to those managing the condition. We believe people with diabetes should have the freedom to enjoy vigorous active lives. Self-testing is a fundamental part of staying on top of diabetes and that’s why we’re developing new technologies like the FreeStyle Libre system– helping to make it simple and easy for people with diabetes to do just that. The system is proven to encourage users to check their glucose levels an average of 16.3 times a day, as opposed to the minimum requirement of testing 3- 5 times a day using the standard finger prick method .”
The International Diabetes Federation Diabetes Atlas (2015) estimated that in 2015 there were 171,800 people in the 20 – 79 age group with diabetes in Ireland and that by 2040 there will be 247,800 people with the condition. The Irish CODEIRE study suggested the annual cost of treating diabetes in Ireland is 10% of the annual health budget.