Insulin pumps are devices used by people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes to manage glucose levels. Insulin pumps differ from injections, although they require a needle to be inserted. These devices have a small tube called a cannula that is inserted into the skin, and then the pump delivers small doses of insulin at regular intervals.
This automatic dosage of insulin differentiates the pump from self-administered injections. Insulin pumps can be great for people with type 2 diabetes who need insulin to manage their blood sugar.
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Being diabetic means, in general, that your body doesn’t make enough insulin to regulate your blood sugar uptake. Therefore, diabetics are often prescribed insulin to be injected to compensate for the lack of insulin created by the body.
An insulin pump is a digital device designed to help people with diabetes manage blood sugar levels by delivering small insulin doses at pre-scheduled times. Insulin pumps can be more convenient for some people than insulin injections, as everything is automatic. These pumps are attached to the body, and they have a small tube that goes under the skin to deliver insulin,
It takes about two to three days before they need to be changed. Because of this, insulin pumps can be more convenient than injections and require fewer needles. There are several brands of insulin pumps, allowing for the flexibility of users to choose what is best for them.
There are two main types of insulin pumps: traditional pumps and patch pumps. Traditional insulin pumps push insulin from a partition in the pump through tubing to a site on the skin that is connected to a smaller, flexible tube called a cannula. The cannula is only a few millimeters long and is responsible for delivering insulin into the body.
Part of the cannula rests just under the skin, allowing the insulin to enter the body and begin working.
Insulin patch pumps are similar to traditional pumps but are smaller and attach to the skin with adhesive. The patch houses a "pod" that holds the insulin partition and the cannula. Patch pumps do not have tubing.
Instead, the pump pushes the insulin directly into the cannula. Patches can be placed directly on the arm or stomach and can be easily concealed if needed. They are controlled wirelessly, making them convenient for those with busy lifestyles.
Patches can be especially effective for children and adults who dislike needles.
In both traditional pumps and patches, the cannula and any other tubing need to be replaced every two to three days to prevent infection. When the health care provider sets up a pump, they teach you how to do this safely, allowing for the ability to manage the pump from home once it is set up.
Neither type of insulin pump is permanent, so users can switch to injections if they decide a pump is not right for them.
In addition to different types of pumps, there are different types of infusion sets as well. An infusion set is the part of the pump that directly administers the insulin and consists of the cannula and tubing.
Angled sets are inserted at a 30-degree angle into the skin, and the cannula and needle can be found in different lengths. Straight infusion sets are inserted at a 90-degree angle to the skin. They typically have shorter needles, making them preferable to those with needle phobias.
Both types of infusion sets can either be inserted manually or with the help of an insertion device. The insertion device allows you to properly insert the infusion sets in places that are harder to reach.
Insulin pumps can be great for some diabetics because they require fewer needles and offer a more consistent dose of insulin throughout the day. Using an insulin pump is primarily a personal preference and is not required. Insulin pumps are often used by people with type 1 diabetes, children, people who don't like needles, and adults who may have trouble remembering to take insulin injections on a regular schedule.
Insulin pumps are also great for:
People who have severe reactions to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
Diabetics who are planning to get pregnant
People who experience delays in food absorption
People who lead active lifestyles and want to pause insulin doses when exercising
Having an insulin pump is a personal choice, so it is essential to talk to a doctor who can help weigh the pros and cons of an insulin pump for each individual. While insulin pumps are seen as lower maintenance than injections, they still require cleaning and maintenance to function properly and avoid infection.
Insulin pumps deliver insulin directly into the body using tubing inserted just beneath the skin. These small devices administer insulin in one of two ways. The first way consists of small, short-acting doses of insulin that are administered continuously, called a basal rate.
These rates are usually set up with the help of a doctor, who will program one or more settings into the pump depending on the person's preferences and needs.
The second way an insulin pump can be set up is to deliver varying amounts of insulin around mealtimes. This delivery method is known as the bolus method. The amount of insulin provided after each meal is determined after the person enters their current blood sugar level, measured by the glucose monitor, and their food intake.
It is important to understand that insulin pumps do not measure your blood insulin. A continuous blood glucose monitor is needed to do so. While many modern insulin pumps can be connected to monitors for constant feedback on blood sugar levels, diabetics still need to keep an eye on their blood sugar levels throughout the day.
People with type 2 diabetes usually have trouble making enough insulin or are insulin resistant. This means the body either doesn't produce enough insulin or can't use the amount it has properly. An insulin pump can provide those with type 2 diabetes the freedom to go about their day without having to give themselves insulin injections.
Additionally, insulin pumps give small, regular doses of insulin throughout the day that a doctor can adjust if higher doses are required. This allows treatment to be customizable and easier to maintain. Additionally, insulin pumps will enable a bolus dose to be administered instantly if blood sugar levels are dangerously high, giving peace of mind to people with type 2 diabetes that have frequent blood sugar spikes.
One of the biggest advantages of insulin pumps is that they can administer consistent, adjustable insulin without disrupting a user's routine. Pumps also result in fewer injections since the cannula (the tubing that goes into the skin) only has to be replaced every two to three days instead of administering injections multiple times a day.
Patch pumps are great for those who don't want others to know about their diabetes or don't want to give themselves injections in public. Patches can be applied to the stomach or arm and can be easily concealed with clothing if a user is more comfortable that way.
Insulin pumps can lead to improved blood sugar levels, especially if the person tends to find themselves forgetting to administer injections. Insulin pumps can allow users to manage their diabetes more easily. One study¹ found that 69% of children and 54% of adults with diabetes who were in excellent glycemic control used pumps, allowing them to control their blood sugar more effectively than other methods.
As with most medical devices, insulin pumps have their drawbacks. One concern with insulin pumps is the risk of malfunctions. Insulin pumps have always been a safe method of managing blood sugar, and they continue to grow safer as technology improves. However, there is a risk of the pump breaking or tubing becoming disconnected. If this happens, it is important to call your doctor immediately.
While pumps can be more convenient than injections, they still require some work on the user's part. The cannula and tubing need to be replaced every two to three days, and the pump will require new insulin added to it regularly. Users will also need to ensure they have the correct pump setting, as incorrect pump settings can result in too much or too little insulin.
Another drawback to traditional insulin pumps is the inability to hide the tubing and pump. While the patch can usually be hidden under clothing, a more traditional pump will be visible to others, making this a drawback of pumps for some diabetics. Insulin pumps also have a higher price tag than injections, making injections a more budget-friendly option than pumps.
There are several brands of insulin pumps that offer different features. Choosing the right insulin pump involves working with your doctor. Pumps vary by how much insulin they can hold, whether they have a touch screen, if they're waterproof, and much more.
Some pumps' safety features can include a programmable bolus, customizable reminders, alerts for missed bolus dose or glucose measurement, and alarms in the event of a blockage. These additional safety features can help to alleviate concerns about a pump failing or malfunctioning.
The features each insulin pump should have depends on what the individual needs. Insulin pumps with a continuous glucose monitor are ideal because they allow users to see their blood sugar levels and ensure they get the right dose for their needs.
These pumps can be programmed to suspend insulin delivery if blood sugar levels are below a certain threshold, taking any uncertainties out of the picture.
Another feature a good pump should have is enough space for the amount of insulin needed for about two to three days. That way, users only have to change the insulin when they are already changing the tubing and cannula. Users need to talk with their doctor to figure out which types of pumps have an insulin reservoir large enough for the dose they need but small enough to be convenient to use.
A good insulin pump needs a strong battery life, and the user should know what type of battery is needed. Insulin pump users should be mindful of whether their insulin pump battery is rechargeable or if they will need to stock up on a specific kind of battery.
Knowing when the battery runs out is also helpful, allowing a user to plan instead of getting caught with a dead battery.
The first step of using an insulin pump is to get one set up with your general practitioner or diabetes care specialist/endocrinologist. They work with people to determine the right kind of insulin pump and the right dosage. Doctors will also show new users how to change the infusion set (the insulin, tubing, and cannula).
It is important to change the infusion set every two to three days, but users also need to check the insertion site twice daily to watch for signs of infection, bent tubing, or air bubbles trapped in the tubing. If there are signs of infection like redness, swelling, and irritation, users need to contact their medical team, clean the area, and swap out the infusion set immediately.
Insulin pumps can be used in several areas of the body. The most common places are the stomach and back of the arm, but other places like the buttocks and upper leg may also be used. Whenever the infusion set is changed, the insertion site should be shifted at least two inches from the previous site. This helps to prevent hard lumps and fatty deposits from building under the skin.
It is important to keep the insertion site and area around it clean. Using good hygiene by washing and drying hands and cleaning the insertion site will help to prevent infections. The insertion site should be shaved and wiped down with an alcohol swab before placing a new infusion set.
When in doubt, it is important for users to contact their doctor and follow the manufacturer's instructions for their pump. Most user manuals for pumps are available online, making it easy to look up in a pinch.
Insulin pumps are one option for people with type 2 diabetes to manage their blood sugar. Insulin pumps automatically administer insulin doses through a traditional pump or patch pump. These devices are great for active people who don't like needles.
Insulin pumps are often used in children but are also preferred by many adults with diabetes. It is a personal choice whether or not to use an insulin pump and should be discussed with your doctor. Insulin pumps are not permanent, and users can switch back to injections if they decide pumps are not a good fit.
Pumps provide a convenient way to self-administer insulin without having to inject oneself. Patch pumps can be easily hidden under clothing, making them a discrete treatment option for those who prefer them.
Insulin pumps offer many advantages over injections, such as easy adjustments, automatic doses, fewer injections, less maintenance, and more flexibility. But, as with any medical device, insulin pumps can malfunction and require maintenance. Insulin pump infusion sets need to be replaced every two to three days, and the insertion site must be kept clean to avoid infection.
Every insulin pump has different features, so it is important to discuss them with your doctor. Some pumps have touch screens, glucose monitoring, and rechargeable batteries, while others do not. Pumps have different-sized insulin reservoirs, which must be taken into account for diabetics.
Insulin pumps are an excellent choice for some people with type 2 diabetes but are not for everyone. A doctor can recommend insulin pumps and help set them up, but only the user can decide if an insulin pump is something they want for the long term.
Insulin pump risks and benefits: A clinical appraisal of pump safety standards, adverse event reporting, and research needs: A joint statement of the European association for the study of diabetes and the American diabetes association diabetes technology working group | American Diabetes Association