For many diabetics a new era has dawned since the insulin pump became available. Others, on the other hand, aren't so enthusiastic.
An insulin pump is a small, computerised device (about the size of a small cell phone) that you wear on your belt or put in your pocket. Its purpose is to provide a continuous flow of a rapid-acting insulin to your body, 24 hours a day, through a small flexible tube (called a catheter) which is inserted under the skin of your abdomen and taped in place. The pump is set to deliver insulin to each user's unique requirements, which will vary according to your own food intake and exercise programme. The user controls the amount of insulin.
Take note of these advantages and disadvantages before you decide to acquire an insulin pump:
Advantages of using an insulin pump
- An insulin pump replaces the need for periodic injections by delivering rapid-acting insulin continuously throughout the day using a catheter
- The slow release of insulin mimics how a normally working pancreas would release insulin
- A pump can simplify diabetes management. If your glucose level is high or you feel like eating, you figure out how much insulin is needed and push the little button on the pump
- Your lifestyle determines your insulin rather than adjusting your lifestyle to your body's response to insulin injections. A insulin pump can help you keep your blood glucose levels within your target ranges both day and night
- Using an insulin pump means eliminating individual insulin injections and it frees you from having to measure insulin into a syringe
- Insulin doses are accurately calculated, that is,more accurately than injections
- When using an insulin pump, your will find that there are fewer large swings in blood glucose levels
- An insulin pump allows more flexible about when and what you eat
- You can exercise without having to eat large amounts of carbohydrates
- Using an insulin pump can improve your quality of life
- Using an insulin pump eliminates unpredictable effects of intermediate- or long-acting insulin.
Disadvantages of using an insulin pump
- Switching to a pump requires some adjustment, so discuss the options with your doctor before making a decision
- You still have to monitor your blood sugar levels – at least four times a day
- It can cause weight gain
- It can cause diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) if your catheter comes out and you don’t get insulin for hours
- A pump can be too expensive for you
- Depending on your lifestyle, it can be bothersome to be attached to the pump most of the time
- Some training is needed, requiring you to stay in hospital or attend an outpatient facility a whole day.