If you're a diabetic, especially a type I diabetic, you've probably heard about insulin pumps as a form of diabetes management. If you don't already know, an insulin pump is a battery-operated, beeper-shaped device that continually delivers insulin, 24 hours a day. It takes the place of insulin injections. It only uses one type of insulin (rapid) which serves as the basal (the small amount of insulin delivered every hour, 24 hours a day which keeps your fasting bloodsugar in range) and the bolus (the larger amount of insulin which is delivered every time you eat). The insulin is kept in a little cartridge inside the pump. This system is closer to that of a real pancreas, compared to injections.
Many kinds of pumps exist, made by many manufacturers. The goal of the insulin pump is to adjust to your lifestyle, so there's a pump out there for everyone! Convenient features of different pumps include:
- Waterproofing (some pumps can even be submerged up to 4m), so you can swim or shower without a care!
- Customizable food menus, meaning you can upload carb counts for easy access (no more memorizing) Example: permanently upload the carb counts for a piece of pizza, so next time you're at a party, you don't have to search for the nutrition information!
- Different settings for different situations (sick days, special occasions, physical activity)
- Reminders to test your blood glucose, refill the insulin cartridge (before it runs out!) and change your batteries.
- Bolus Wizards, which eliminate the need to calculate insulin amounts before eating. Just enter your blood sugar reading, the amount of carbohydrate you're about to eat, and you're set!
- Wireless transmitting between your blood glucose meter, your computer and your pump. This allows you to instantly and conveniently send your results to your healthcare provider by e-mail.
- Computer tools which automatically graph your results in various visual forms, so you can easily see trends.
- Numerous safety features for small children.
- Wireless remotes to discreetly operate the pump under clothing.
- Real time glucose monitoring which monitors blood glucose 24 hours a day, and sends it wirelessly to your pump.
A little article simply can't do this device justice, the above is a summary of the pump's many convenient features.
What are the advantages of the insulin pump?
- Better control when used properly, as the system closely mimicks the normal action of a healthy pancreas.
- Help people achieve lower HbA1c levels because of tighter control
- More freedom to skip meals, sleep in and exercise when you want
- The pump only requires one injections every three days, as opposed to four or more injections a day
- Reduces risk of complications down the road through better control
What are the disadvantages of the insulin pump?
- Because the pump only uses rapid-acting insulin, blood glucose levels may rise very fast if there is an interruption in insulin delivery.
- Some insurance companies do not cover insulin pumps or monthly supplies
- Some people find the pump too noticeable, or see it as a constant reminder they have diabetes
- The needle used to insert the catheter is bigger than an ordinary insulin needle
The insulin pump is defininitely something to consider. It is important to thoroughly research this device, and speak to your healthcare provider to determine if it is right for you. Thoroughly research different pumps from different manufacturers to see which one can help you the most. Check if your government can help cover the costs. For example, in Ontario, Canada, people under 21 years old have access to the Assistive Devices Program:
Your country/area of residence may have a similar program.
Other useful links:
Remember, medical information is always changing! Make sure you're researching using credible, up-to-date sources.
Frank, M. (2006, October 2). Insulin Pumps. Retrieved from AboutKidsHealth: http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/Diabetes/Insulin-Pumps.aspx?articleID=6918&categoryID=DB-nh3-02f
What Makes Animas so Different? (2010). Retrieved from Animas Canada: http://www.animas.ca/the-animas-diabetes-difference.aspx