Skin Reactions Linked to FreeStyle Libre

The FreeStyle Libre reader works by scanning a transcutaneous sensor that is installed on the arm for up to 14 days, in order to display a graph of blood sugar readings. This system offers many benefits, including easier blood sugar checking, fewer finger pricks, and blood sugar graphs for the last eight hours.

It has been shown that using the FreeStyle Libre system improves blood sugar management and reduces the severity and frequency of hypoglycemic episodes. It is becoming increasingly used ever since the RAMQ has started covering it under certain conditions.

However, the sensor can sometimes cause a skin reaction called contact dermatitis, which is characterized by redness, swelling, itching or pain at the insertion site appearing soon after the sensor is inserted or a few days later.

Contact dermatitis prevalence

A study in Belgium sought to measure the frequency of contact dermatitis for users of the FreeStyle Libre system. The study showed that most of these reactions are due to isobornyl acrylate, an allergen found in the sensor adhesive. Other components in the adhesive may also cause these skin reactions. Contact dermatitis affected 5.5% of the 1,036 users that were monitored as part of the study.

Symptom relief

In the study, a protective barrier called Cavilon was mostly used to relieve symptoms. Available as a spray or as a wipe, the product forms an invisible coating between the skin and the adhesive. Applying this protective barrier can reduce any irritation caused by the sensor.

Cavilon proved to be partially or totally effective among participants. Cavilon is usually active for 72 hours while the Freestyle Libre sensor stays on for up to 14 days, which can explain why it was not completely effective in some cases.  

The study also revealed that contact dermatitis can appear over time and not necessarily when the sensor is first used.

List of Products for Skin Conditions

There are many products that can help with skin conditions. As a part of a study designed to validate an online training platform for adults who live with type 1 diabetes, the BETTER team compiled a list of products that you will find HERE (in French).

These products can yield different results from person to person. Trying different options is important so that you can keep enjoying all the benefits that this system can offer.

Do you live with type 1 diabetes?

You could have access to several other informative documents by registering on the SUPPORT online platform.


Pyl, J., Dendooven, E., Eekelen, I. V., Brinker, M. D., Dotremont, H., France, A., Aerts, O. (2020). Prevalence and Prevention of Contact Dermatitis Caused by FreeStyle Libre: A Monocentric Experience. Diabetes Care, 43(3). DOI: 10.2337/dc19-1354

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