For diabetics who have to inject themselves with insulin, an insulin pump is an interesting option. What do you know about it?
What is an insulin pump?
Since insulin was discovered in 1921, treatments for diabetes have changed a great deal. Today, there are various therapeutic treatments that include several types of insulin and several ways of administering it. All of them must be injected under the skin, often several times a day.
To achieve this, syringes or insulin pens can be used. Another option that has gained popularity is the use of insulin pumps. These are medical devices that administer insulin by infusion, so the user doesn’t have to administer injections once or several times a day.
Insulin pumps are usually made up of three components:
- a reservoir
- a pump, and
- an infusion set that includes a cannula and tubing
The reservoir contains the insulin, the pump delivers the insulin to the body and the tubing connects the reservoir to the cannula. The latter is inserted under the patient’s skin using a needle and is held in place with an adhesive patch for 24 to 72 hours.
The insulin pump can be worn in several different areas on the body. It can be attached to a belt, pocket or bra. It can also be placed on a surface next to you (while you are sleeping, for example). Some models are designed to stick directly to the skin.
How do these pumps work?
Insulin pumps deliver insulin much the same way a normal pancreas would. One of the advantages of using them is that they use only one type of insulin, called fast-acting insulin. They are programmed to deliver basal insulin for 24 hours to fulfill the body’s basic needs just as the pancreas does.
Also, additional doses called “bolus” are administered at mealtime or snack time according to carbohydrate intake and blood glucose results. The device includes a screen and various programming buttons that allow you to program the pump and adjust the insulin doses to be administered. Depending on the model, various alarm signals will sound if problems occur. It is important to test blood glucose several times a day to ensure that you receive the correct dose of insulin and to avoid blood glucose levels that are too high or too low.
How do you choose an insulin pump?
Insulin pumps have been in use for a few years now. Today’s models are smaller, safer and easier to use than the older ones. Several manufacturers make and offer more than one model. Each model has its advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to speak to the healthcare professional who monitors your diabetes to choose the model that is best adapted to your needs.
Some models have an integrated blood glucose meter that allows the results to be sent wirelessly to the pump, where the adjustment of the insulin dose is made accordingly. This simplifies insulin therapy management and eliminates all risk of data entry errors.
In 2011, the Quebec Government set up a universal access program for insulin pumps for children and adolescents under the age of 18, living with Type I diabetes. The government reimburses the purchase cost of the insulin pump and offers an annual amount for the reimbursement of supplies. If you wish to purchase an insulin pump, speak to your doctor or to the healthcare professional who monitors your diabetes.
What are the advantages of insulin pumps?
Insulin pumps have several advantages and they simplify the delivery of insulin for people with diabetes, such as:
- eliminate numerous injections throughout the day
- deliver insulin more precisely than syringes and insulin pens
- improve blood glucose control and reduce wide variations throughout the day
- improve diabetes management
- make eating and exercising easier
- reduce the risk of hypoglycemia, and
- improve quality of life
How do you make proper use of insulin pumps?
Although insulin pumps are very practical, they are complex devices. It is important to have a good understanding of how the device works to avoid any complications. You should follow a training session on how to use the device correctly. Additionally, insulin pumps are not suitable for everyone. Your diabetes should already be under control for some time before using an insulin pump.
Here is some additional advice for people who use an insulin pump.
- Check your device regularly. The tubing must not be bent. Keep a watchful eye for any insulin leaks or potential damage to the equipment.
- Be sure to change the battery when necessary.
- Make sure you understand how to set up and operate your device.
- Adjust configuration of the device according to your daily activities and diet.
- Make sure you can hear the alarm signals your device sends you. Adjust the volume accordingly.
- Test your blood glucose regularly.
- Consult the healthcare professional who monitors your diabetes whenever you need to.
Don’t hesitate to speak to your pharmacist for additional information about diabetes management.