People who have been diagnosed with diabetes may discover that they need to self-administer insulin. Traditionally, this was done by single injections according to blood sugar levels. However, insulin pumps have provided another option for giving insulin.
What is an Insulin Pump?
An insulin pump is a small, portable device that is worn on the body in a pump case or tucked inside clothing, a pocket, or a belt. The pump typically weighs about three ounces and is usually smaller than an adult-sized hand.
The pump is filled with short-acting insulin that flows through a small, short tube and into an infusion set that enters the skin via a needle or tube called a cannula that is held in place by a dressing or patch. Some newer pumps are now offering pumps that work without tubing. The cannula can stay in place several days, which reduces the number of needle punctures, or shots, delivered by traditional insulin shots several times a day.
The pump is programmed by the user to deliver insulin in several different ways. It will deliver a continuous rate, called a basal rate, at night and between meals. Daytime rates may be different than nighttime rates. The user can also program bolus doses based on carbohydrate intake. The pump will then deliver that programmed amount of insulin over a short period of time. This is called a bolus dose.
How Do People Use an Insulin Pump?
People who use an insulin pump will generally check blood sugar levels at least three or four times per day. A bolus dose can also be programmed for high glucose levels. Blood sugar goals are set, and the pump basal rate can be adjusted to meet those goals.
Insulin pumps can be removed for short periods of time, typically less than two hours. Insulin will not be delivered if the pump is disconnected. A person might disconnect the pump in order to shower, swim, play sports, or engage in other activities in order to prevent damage to the device or injury to the person, such as with certain sports. The pump might also be disconnected if blood sugar levels are abnormally low or if a malfunction of the pump is suspected.
Although insulin pumps tended to be used more by those with type I diabetes, people with type II diabetes may also use insulin pumps today, and people of all ages may use an insulin pump with the direction of a diabetes care team if deemed appropriate.
Diabetes Insulin Pump Can Help Keep Blood Sugar Under Control
Monitoring and treating blood sugar levels is an important part of effective diabetes control. Better blood glucose control may improve A1c levels. Blood sugar control combined with a healthy diet and a regular exercise program may help someone with diabetes to avoid or lessen some of the many complications of this chronic and widespread health condition.