Key facts, information and FAQs for any Type 1 diabetics considering starting to use an Insulin Pump. How they work and why they are better then an injection regime is explained.
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In recent years an alternative to manual insulin injections has emerged. Enter the Insulin Pump. The first Insulin Pumps were quite bulky, but modern ones are about the size of a small Cellphone or Pager. The pump is worn unobtrusively on a belt or in a pocket and it delivers insulin through a thin plastic tube (or Infusion Set) that is inserted under the skin.
WHY AN INSULIN PUMP IS BETTER
In a healthy person, the pancreas produces insulin constantly at low levels, keeping blood glucose levels stable. When a meal is eaten, the pancreas will send larger amounts of insulin into the blood stream to handle the food. Using a standard injection regime, slow and fast acting insulin is used to try and mimic the pancreas. An insulin pump much more closely copies the pancreas. The pump delivers a low level of background insulin (called basal) and at meal times can deliver a “bolus” dose at the touch of a button, to cover the food.
Just like a real pancreas, if you are ill, or exercising, the basal insulin rate can be reduced. If you skip a meal, the bolus is not delivered. In this way, the pump fits into your lifestyle, rather than planning your life around your injection schedule!
CHOOSING AN INSULIN PUMP
Most insulin pumps on the market today have all the basic features. Choosing one
is much like chosing a Cellphone, it is a mixture of personal taste and what you
plan on using it for. If you are a water sports fan, waterproof ones area available!
If you love analysing data to improve your control, you can get one with PC download
capability and analysis software. If you are new to the world of Insulin Pumps,
here are some key points to think about:
- Choose a pump that allows you to set up different basal levels. For instance at night time, if you are sick or exercising. This is an important feature to help you live a full life.
- Pumps that use a standard “Luer Lock” infusion sets are better. This means cheaper consumables.
- Alerts to remind you to check your blood glucose level make life easier.
- Check what batteries it takes, standard AA or AAAs are cheaper and easier to buy.
- More advanced pumps include a carbohydrate calculator to help you figure out what your meal Bolus dose should be.
- Coming to the market are integrated Insulin Pump/Glucose meters. The meters readings are automatically transferred to the pump which can use them to recommend an insulin dose.
Other features to look for include, being waterproof, having a carbohydrate food database and alerts to warn you if you have missed a meal, or the infusion set needs changing. In short, Insulin pump manufacturers are making
their products ever easier to use and automating more and more features. Life is getting better for diabetics!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q What if I don’t get on with the pump, can I switch back to injections?
A Yes. It is not a one way ticket, but most people do notice an improvement in their blood glucose control and find their lives improved.
Q I have a really hectic lifestyle, is a pump for me?
A Yes. Infact people who are extremely busy often see the biggest improvement. If you struggle to remember to test and inject at the right time – perhaps meal times vary from day to day, then a pump could really help you.
Q I am considering a pump but may get pregnant, is that ok?
A Yes. As pumps usually improve your blood glucose control, using a pump through pregancy and beyond is generally a good thing. Having as close to normal blood glucose levels reduces the chances of complications during pregnancy.
Q What are the costs?
A The initial outlay is in the order of a few thousand dollars, but prices are coming down all the time. Infusion sets need changing regularly too. The latest prices can be found from various diabetes suppliers on the web.
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