How can an insulin pump improve life with insulin-dependent diabetes?
Controlling blood glucose levels tightly takes motivation and commitment. Studies such as the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT 1993) have shown this is the best way to prevent or delay complications of type 1 diabetes such as blindness, amputation, heart disease, and kidney failure. These cause pain, disability and are expensive to treat. A pump used well is an effective tool for maintaining blood glucose levels within the normal range and helping to keep pumpers healthier and in work.
A pump can help you gain tighter control of your diabetes. Pump users can easily adjust their insulin dose according to their own changing needs, thus minimising high and low glucose swings and the resulting long- term complications.
Because the pump delivers insulin continuously day and night, only rapid-acting insulin is necessary at rates designed to meet basal insulin requirements: this means that you don’t need meals at specific times. You may eat when you like, or not at all, without suffering hypos or hypers. You can also exercise without risking high or low blood glucose levels promoting better health and well-being.
Pumps deliver insulin much more precisely than any available pen or syringe. Basal rates are adjustable down to 0.1 of a unit, depending on the make of pump. The tiny doses of Insulin from a pump are more consistently absorbed than a larger amount from an injection where it is sometimes not absorbed properly causing glucose levels to run low or high for several hours.
Injected long-acting insulin can be absorbed differently every day-sometimes too quickly, sometimes too slowly, and sometimes only in part. This leads to variable control. With a pump and rapid acting insulin continuously delivering in tiny drops, absorption is much more reliable and your diabetes more stable and predictable.
- Better quality of life and well-being
- Flexible schedule (meal times, lazy days etc)
- Eat more/less or not at all
- Adjust insulin to meet your body’s needs
- Easier to manage exercise without hypos/hypers
- Restored hypoglycaemia awareness
- Easier to manage travelling across time zones (only fast acting insulin to consider)
- Easier to manage control before and during pregnancy
- Delays or prevents long term complications
- Manage the dawn phenomenon
- Being attached to the pump almost all of the time (although it can be disconnected for short times – swimming, showers, sex etc)
- Increased risk of diabetic ketoacidosis (that’s why you need to do 4 or more blood tests a day)
- Chance of skin infections, especially if you don’t change the infusion set after 3 days
Most experts agree, however, that the advantages of pumping far outweigh the disadvantages.