For people with diabetes, especially those with Type 1 diabetes, managing their blood sugar is the utmost important goal in their list to maintain a normal to near normal life…and the best way for them to do this is to make sure that they regularly inject insulin.
There are different ways on how to deliver the insulin to one person’s body – it can be using an insulin pen/vial, meaning you are going to inject yourself every time you eat, or it can also be via an insulin pump, where a small machine is attached to you and gives you insulin on a steady flow throughout the day and night.
In this article, we are going to tell you what its like to have and live a life with an insulin pump. What it is, how it works, and if it is better than daily injections.
What is an Insulin Pump?
An insulin pump is a compact, computerized device that is designed to deliver timely doses of insulin to an individual affected by diabetes. The device is also capable of delivering variable rates of insulin when needed, typically before a meal or snack.
Individuals diagnosed with type 1 diabetes are incapable of producing insulin and must make up for that through daily insulin shots. Having to take multiple shots of insulin in a day may be a source of burden and utilizing an insulin pump can alleviate that concern.
Individuals with type 2 diabetes can typically reverse their symptoms through diet changes and taking on a healthier lifestyle. A physician may further choose to prescribe medication as an additional measure to target blood sugar.
Type 2 diabetics are capable of producing insulin, however, the insulin is not able to be processed efficiently. At times, these individuals may need additional measures to ensure proper blood glucose levels, if exercise and diet fail to garner the intended results.
An insulin pump is an option for those who are seeking an alternative method of insulin delivery.
How Do Insulin Pumps Work?
An insulin pump is designed to mimic the way a human pancreas works by delivering small doses of insulin to the body. These doses are called basal, or background, doses as they are continuously delivered into the body in minimal amounts.
Additionally, an insulin pump is capable of producing bolus doses throughout the day when needed. These bolus doses are increased amounts of insulin that is delivered into the body when eating a meal or having a snack.
The basal dose will typically be set by your physician based on your individual need for insulin. The bolus doses may also be customized based on your individual carbohydrate intake.
Most pumps are equipped with a bolus calculator that can aid you in calculating the proper bolus dose needed based on the amount of carbohydrates you eat and your blood sugar level at the time of insulin delivery.
Insulin pumps are very compact, typically the size of deck of cards. The device is worn on the exterior of the body and delivers insulin through a catheter that is connected to a thin canulla. This canulla will be replaced and inserted at a new location every two to three days to prevent tissue infection. This frequent changing of injection sites will allow the tissue ample time to fully heal before being used again.
The canulla is placed under the skin, commonly around the stomach, under a layer of fat. The insulin pump can be worn around the waist in a convenient pouch that can be attached to pockets or pants. Moreover, you can choose to attach the insulin pump to your bra, undershirt, or on a band around your arm.
Daily Injections or Insulin Pump?
Individuals affected by diabetes require daily insulin injections in order to keep their blood glucose at appropriate levels. These insulin shots are typically required fifteen minutes before a meal or snack. This allows sufficient time for insulin absorption prior to any caloric intake.
As diabetes rely on these insulin shots to maintain a proper blood glucose level, it is critical that each injection is given in the correct manner and dosage. This may be inconvenient for some individuals as it requires you to record dates and dosages for injections, a task that may seem troublesome.
Many diabetics opt for an alternative to daily insulin injections – the insulin pump. The insulin pump accomplishes the same goal as injections, however, it alleviates the stress of having to recall when to give insulin and how much to inject.
The pump acts as an artificial pancreas and injects a continuous, small dosage of insulin to properly maintain an individual’s blood glucose level.
Life with Type One Diabetes
Three of the most common indicators of diabetes are excessive thirst, increased or frequent urination, and frequent hunger. Others include increased fatigue, unexplained weight loss, blurred vision, and increased susceptibility to infections.
Individuals with diabetes will experience wounds that heal relatively slowly compared to healthy individuals. Individuals with type 1 diabetes may also experience increased irritability.
After the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, an individual will be placed on insulin to maintain proper blood glucose levels. A physician will prescribe insulin for the individual and provide extensive education on the disease if needed.
With type 1 diabetes, it is crucial to understand the preparation and injection of insulin, the proper diet to maintain healthy blood glucose levels and the proper way to check glucose levels. Moreover, nutritional management will play a critical role in maintaining proper blood glucose levels.
insulin pump is not that cheap..meaning it costs more that just the regular pens or vials, especially the supplies. Some of the insurance companies cover insulin pumps, but some only cover certain pumps, be sure to check with your insurance company before purchasing a brand.
Using an insulin pump also needs time and patience. You need to enter some information into the pump and change infusion set every three days. You still need to check your blood sugar at times to make sure that your pump is working well and prevent from any very high blood sugar episodes or what we call diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).
If you are very new with insulin pumps, you need to do training on how to use the insulin pump properly which means many visits with your healthcare team (or maybe you can also do just one training but it will be an entire day, depending on how fast you can do it on your own); and lastly, Insulin pump supplies are expensive.
Managing type 1 diabetes requires constant work and planning, a task that may be daunting to some. Life with type 1 diabetes will be different, but with proper education and management, your quality of life can be maintained.
Always remember not because you have diabetes you cannot do the things you used to do…as long as you know your limitations, and know how to manage it by preventing having highs and lows (blood sugar), then we are pretty sure you can enjoy your life to the fullest.
We’re hoping that this has helped in some way. If you ever need a hand or have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comment section and we will be more than happy to help you out as much as we can.
Schade, David S. “Counterpoint: Are Insulin Pumps Underutilized in Type 1 Diabetes? No.” Diabetes Care, American Diabetes Association, 1 June 2006, care.diabetesjournals.org/content/29/6/1453.
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All the best,
Jacy and Ryan (TMD Team)