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Is an Insulin Pump for You?

More and more people with diabetes (especially people with type 1 diabetes) are considering using insulin pumps, hoping the computerized devices will enable them to enjoy a more flexible lifestyle. While pumps can be beneficial, they're not for everyone.

About the size of a beeper, insulin pumps are worn on a belt or carried in a pocket. Some pumps are stuck to the skin. They deliver a steady, measured dose of insulin through a flexible plastic tube called a catheter. In addition, pumps provide a small, sudden bolus amount of insulin as needed for food. 

With the aid of a small needle, the catheter is inserted through the skin into fatty tissue and taped in place. The insertion place is changed every few days to reduce the risk for infection and for the pump to work reliably.

Pumps are programmed to deliver different doses of insulin at different times of the day, which mimics the way the pancreas delivers insulin naturally.

Clear benefits

In selected patients, insulin pump therapy has been shown to reduce blood sugar fluctuations better than traditional intensive insulin regimens, such as daily multiple injections. This helps people avoid the extreme highs and lows that plague many diabetics who take injected insulin.

The resulting stable blood sugar levels may lead to better diabetes control, which can reduce the risk and severity of diabetic complications such as blindness, heart disease, and kidney failure.

Over time, pump therapy leads to a more flexible eating schedule, enables you to exercise longer and more intensely and helps provide continuous blood sugar control if you have a variable work schedule.

Possible difficulties

People who use pumps must commit to monitoring their glucose regularly and working closely with their medical providers and diabetes educators all of which is time-consuming. Additionally, some people may find that being attached to the pump is cumbersome at times. 

Another difficulty is cost. A pump and the supplies needed for it can be pricey. Check with your insurance provider to investigate level of coverage for the device, then discuss with your doctor if you would like to try the insulin pump.