The Insulin Pump (Continued)

Covering meals

If you currently use fast-acting insulin for meals, then you know that you're supposed to very carefully calculate the total carbs of your meal and use a mathematical formula to determine how many units of fast-acting insulin you should inject to "cover" the food. This can take quite some time, so most people who need this kind of therapy end up eating a lot of cold meals. (You know, 'cause the food gets cold while the insulin user tries to figure out how much of the stupid insulin to take.) On a pump, you still need to count your carbs, but the pump crunches the numbers for you, which is a big time saver. It also lets you take crazy-sized doses, like 2.14 units. No more rounding up or down to the nearest full-unit or half-unit. This gives you more precise coverage for your meals, and that means you get more precise control, and that means not only will your life be simplified, but that you'll be at greatly reduced risk of complications.

And as a bonus, pumps will let you change the math for various times of the day. For instance, some people find they need a more robust amount of insulin to cover breakfast than they do at lunch or dinner. The pump knows what time it is, and will select the right formula for you for that meal. Again, you still need to think, particularly when it comes to the carb load of the food, but all the grunt work, in the form of number crunching, is done for you. So the pump gives you superior precision with reduced effort. Sweet!

Fixing boo-boos

Of course no matter how careful we are, no matter how well we count our carbs, sometimes things go awry and we need to "take a correction." This usually means injecting extra insulin to lower a higher-than-desired blood sugar. Again, the pump can crunch the math for you. All you need to do is tell it what your blood sugar is. And once again, the pump can deliver odd-ball-sized amounts of insulin to more precisely fix the boo-boo in question. And like the meal delivery, this math can be changed for the time of the day, too.

Pumps also let you multi-task eating and fixing boo-boos. You can tell the pump how much you're going to eat and what your blood sugar is, and the pump can give you insulin for both at the same time. Some pumps will even lower the meal insulin dose if your blood sugar is below target, and many keep track of insulin they gave you earlier so that you don't "stack" up too much insulin in your body, a scenario that can cause a low blood sugar.

Wait a sec! How does the insulin get from the box to the bod?

So there are two flavors of insulin pumps: tubed and patch. The tubed model uses a thin, clear plastic hose to deliver insulin from the box to an infusion set on your body. An infusion set is nothing more than a port that lets insulin pass through the skin; it's worn several days, then replaced. The tubeless insulin pumps for diabetics, also called patch pumps, do away with the tube and put the insulin supply into a pod that's placed directly on the skin. The pod is then controlled by a wireless remote. So the brains of the system are removed from the delivery end of the business.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both systems. Really it just comes down to which one suits your lifestyle better. Patches are bulkier on the body, but don't have hoses to get caught on passing door knobs, attacked by cats, or tangled in your bed sheets at night. On the other hand, tubed pumps are lower profile on the skin and are less likely to get knocked off than pods are. Also, with a tubed pump there's no risk of leaving the brains of the system on your kitchen table when you fly out the door late for work or school because the tubed pump is literally attached to you. But, really, one system is not necessarily better than the other. They are just different.

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Last Modified Date: June 19, 2013

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