Individuals who have type 1 and type two 2 are required to manage their insulin levels. The typical two options for management are via insulin injections or using an insulin pump. For many people, the diabetic pump allows them to regulate their insulin levels without having to resort to regularly pricking their skin with a needle.
For some, the needle pricks are painful or simply an inconvenience. A diabetic pump offers more independence and less invasiveness.
So what should you know about pumps before you make the switch?
How Does an Insulin Pump Work?
An insulin pump is essentially a computerized device that delivers short-acting insulin to the body via a small tube. The tube is placed directly under the skin. The most attractive thing about a diabetic pump is that it releases insulin in a similar way to how the body naturally produces it.
The pump injects the body with a steady flow of insulin throughout the day and then provides a larger dose at mealtimes to help regulate levels. People must simply program the pump to inject the insulin at the rate at which they need it to. You can even make adjustments to the injections if you happen to eat more than you usually do and need a different dose of insulin to regulate your levels.
When managing diabetes via insulin injections, the individual needs to take a shot of basal insulin once per day. Basal insulin, also known as long-acting or background insulin, regulates blood sugar levels between meals. The individual will also inject bolus, also known as short-acting, insulin at mealtimes to manage increases in blood glucose levels as a result of food. Conversely, because an insulin pump injects the body with a steady flow of insulin throughout the day, the individual will no longer need to take a shot of basal insulin. Instead, they rely only on bolus insulin.
What Does a Diabetic Pump Look Like?
An insulin pump is a small device that is similar in size to a smartphone. You simply attach it to the body via a thin plastic tube with a needle or thin tube. The common areas for placement are the stomach, buttocks, or thigh. People elect to use the area that is most comfortable for them.
The pump itself can be worn around your waist in a case, can hook onto a belt or bra, be kept in a pocket, or be worn on an armband. There are many accessory options that will help make wearing a pump as convenient as possible.
Pros and Cons of Diabetic Pumps
Of course, this device comes with certain advantages and disadvantages that people should consider.
Pros of Using a Diabetic Pump Include:
- Easier to plan for meals and exercise
- More accurate than shots
- Fewer needle uses
- Fewer blood sugar lows
- May improve A1C levels
- Helps manage early morning high blood sugar levels
- More convenient
Cons of Using a Diabetic Pump Include:
- Can be tedious since you have to enter information in the pump daily
- Must regularly check the pump to ensure that it is working properly
- You’ll need assistance from medical providers (especially at first) with understanding the proper usage
- Diabetic pumps can be expensive
Who Should Use a Diabetic Pump?
Individuals with type 1 or type 2 diabetes may benefit from using a diabetic pump. People who prefer to have the assistance of a pump and see it as an easier way to manage their insulin levels are the best candidates for this device. However, some of the drawbacks for people is that the device is attached to their body and people will see it.
It is also important that people who use the device understand that they are committing to learning how to use the device and how to operate it fully. Failure to do so will make the diabetic pump useless.
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Different Types of Devices
Fortunately, there are numerous diabetic pumps to choose from. They range in size, ease of use, and of course, cost. Because insurance companies will only replace devices every few years, it is important to select the pump that works well in your lifestyle. When selecting a pump to consider the following:
- Ability to manage the device on your own
- Comfort with using the device regularly
- Activity level
Your doctor can help you walk through some considerations to ensure that you’re making the best selection for your lifestyle. Many people prefer pumps that they can connect to their smartphone or tablet for easier use.
Technology is constantly advancing. There are now pumps available that also wirelessly connect with blood glucose meters. If you have a continuous glucose monitoring device that is inserted under your skin, you can find pumps that can wirelessly connect with this device as well.
Some have touchscreens, are waterproof, have features that enable you to set reminders and alerts, and other safeguards that prevent hypoglycemia (low glucose levels) from occurring.
There are numerous devices to choose from, and many of them work well with different types of lifestyles. Take your time making the selection and consider all the options before committing to a single device.
Things to Keep in Mind
While the diabetic pump is certainly an advantage for some people, there are a few things to keep in mind. Not only do you have to commit yourself to understanding how to use it, but you must also plan accordingly in case the pump stops working.
It is important to keep insulin injections on-hand in the event of an emergency. People must remember that a diabetic pump is a device and devices can break. Regular maintenance and monitoring are important to ensure that it is working properly. You will have to work closely with your medical provider to make sure that you understand its uses and limitations.
Diabetic pumps can be a great solution for many patients. However, not everybody likes to use a diabetic pump for medical or personal reasons. If you are interested in learning more about the device, reach out to your doctor for more information.