For those who are not familiar with insulin pumps, it is a mechanical device that can help monitor the delivery of insulin to the body for diabetic individuals. Usually, it involves a cartridge of fast-acting insulin, a screen and buttons for programming and monitoring, and a pump that delivers the insulin to the body via a catheter. The catheter connects the mechanical device to an infusion set, which typically includes a small, flexible tube that is inserted under the skin via a small insulin needle. The catheter can be removed from the infusion set as needed. A normal pump runs safety checks every second and have automatic shut downs in case of internal malfunctions. Different types of pumps range from ones that can be carried in a pocket to ones that are placed directly on the body.
For individuals with type 1 diabetes or insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes, investing in an insulin pump harbors many advantages. They include:
- Fewer “swings” in blood glucose level and better control: Hypoglycemia worries can decrease with the use of insulin pumps because the patient will have no need to eat on a strict schedule throughout the day. With regular pump use, sugar levels may also gradually drop for easier early detection of hypoglycemia should it occur. It has also been revealed that individuals who use the insulin pump have lower A1C than those who still use traditional shots, and have more readings that are close to normal.
- No more constant shots: Generally, people do not enjoy receiving shots on a daily basis, and the use of an insulin pump can eliminate the daily dread of the needle. Traditional daily shots may also cause undesirable appearances of the skin due to the breakdown of tissues from constant needle insertion, and insulin pumps can prevent that.
- Convenience and flexibility: Insulin pumps can provide greater flexibility in people’s eating, working and exercising schedule because they are no longer functioning on a time schedule or strict regimen. There is also no special preparation needed when delivering insulin to the body; a simple press of a button will do.
- Dosage accuracy: Some individuals may be extremely sensitive to insulin and need every dose to be extremely accurate. Insulin pumps mechanically measures out precise dosages every time and eliminates the potential of inaccurate dosage, which can be beneficial for skinny individuals or children. Adjustment of overall insulin intake is also easy if the patient is undergoing pregnancy, puberty change or acute illnesses.
- Increase quality of life: With all these benefits, the insulin pump can dramatically improve the quality of one’s life and put fewer limitations on daily activities!
Of course, there are always two sides to a coin, and there are disadvantages associated with the use of an insulin pump. They include:
- Expense: Compared to the traditional syringe and injection, the insulin pump is more expensive as it requires multiple disposable parts (such as batteries, cartridges, etc) that need replacement. Not all health insurance covers the expenses either, so it may be wise to research insurance coverage ahead of time for the best option.
- Risk of ketoacidosis (DKA): In the event of malfunctions, the risk of ketosis will increase. Ketoacidosis is a life threatening condition that needs emergency medical attention. Sometimes, if the pump is set incorrectly or if the catheter unknowingly falls out, an interruption of insulin delivery may happen. Thus, it is very important to know how to react in times of ketosis and how to use the pump correctly.
- Technical education: It is important for the patient to know the operation of the pump inside and out to avoid potential technical problems that can lead to potential insulin interruptions. Sometimes, it may be difficult for the elderly to learn the operations of a new device, so insulin pumps may not be the right fit for everyone. While the modern pumps are more efficient and easy to use than ever, training on how to use the pumps correctly may take some time to learn.
- Adjustment period: For some people, switching from a familiar syringe to a mechanical device may take some adjustment time. Also, it may take some time for your doctor to figure out a “right” insulin formula that can be adapted to the pump, so there may be weight fluctuations and other side effects during the adjustment period.
Generally, diabetic individuals who switched over to insulin pumps agree that the benefits of the pump outweigh the disadvantages. Talk to your doctor to see if the insulin pump is right for you.
Currently Available Pumps
Insulin pumps are constantly being updated and improved upon for minimal defects. Here are some currently available pumps on the market:
- Accu-Chek Spirit
- Dana Diabecare IIS
- MiniMed Paradigm Real-Time Reveal
- OneTouch Ping
Since each pump functions differently, consult your doctor for the appropriate pump for you. More information about these pumps can be found on the American Diabetes Association website in the links below.