Insulin Pump Therapy
What are the benefits to pumping insulin?
By Gary Scheiner, MS CDE
Insulin pump therapy offers a number of unique and important advantages over traditional insulin injection therapy. Here are our "top 10":
1. Better blood sugar control. Statistically, people who use insulin pumps have lower A1C's than people who take shots. But forget about statistics. What's more important is that pump users see fewer highs and fewer lows, and more readings that are closer to normal.
2. Less trouble with lows. By eliminating long-acting insulin from the diabetes regimen and replacing it with a true "basal" rate of fast-acting insulin, the need to eat meals on schedule is eliminated. Meals can be delayed or skipped without worrying about hypoglycemia. Blood sugar levels also tend to drop more gradually with pump use – resulting in earlier detection of hypoglycemic symptoms and fewer lows requiring the assistance of others.
3. A flexible lifestyle. There are not many people who can keep the same schedule day after day. With an insulin pump, you choose when to have your meals and snacks, when to exercise, and when to sleep. Shift work and travel across time zones is much easier with an insulin pump.
4. Precise dosing. The insulin pump is capable of delivering doses to the nearest tenth, and even hundredth, of a unit with pinpoint precision. The pump is an ideal choice for those who are sensitive to small doses of insulin, such as children and lean adults.
5. Convenience. Forget about the hassle and social stigma of drawing up syringes every time you need to take a shot. With the insulin pump, taking insulin is easy and discreet, anytime and anywhere. Simply reach to your side, press a few buttons, and your insulin is automatically delivered.
6. No Shots. Multiple daily insulin injections can be uncomfortable and may cause a breakdown of the fatty layer below the skin (lipodystrophy), resulting in embarrassing skin indentations, hardened areas of skin, and inconsistent insulin absorption. The pump's infusion set, which is changed every 2-4 days, involves a single needle insertion with no damage to the skin.
7. Easy adjustments. The one constant in life is change. From childhood growth and seasonal sports to pregnancy, menopause, and acute illnesses, insulin needs can change from day-to-day and year-to-year. The insulin pump makes it easy to adjust your overall insulin intake to best match your body's needs.
8. Weight Control. Whether your interest is in gaining or losing weight, the insulin pump gives you the power to adjust your food intake and incorporate activity as you see fit.
9. Better control with exercise. Without long-acting insulin to cause untimely blood sugar drops during exercise, hypoglycemia is less common with pump use. Pre-meal bolus adjustments make after-meal exercise easy, and temporary basal rate reductions make blood sugars more manageable with prolonged activities such as daylong gardening or long-distance running.
10. Novelty. We all like things that are new and exciting (and syringe injections are anything but). The insulin pump may be just the ticket to renew your interest and enthusiasm in your diabetes care.
Gary Scheiner is an author and CDE who has type 1 diabetes. He also offers his expertise and services via his website, www.integrateddiabetes.com.
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