Insulin Pump Therapy: The Pros and Cons

What People With Diabetes Need to Know

External Insulin Pump
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Insulin pump therapy is used by tens of thousands of people of all ages who have diabetes. Many studies have shown improved glucose management outcomes for those using insulin pumps.

While it does allow for more flexibility in your lifestyle and it does have the potential to even out the wide blood sugar fluctuations that are often experienced when injecting insulin, it may not be the right choice for every person.

Consider the following pros and cons carefully and discuss them with your doctor.

Advantages of Insulin Pump Therapy

  1. Bye bye, syringe: Insulin pumps eliminate the need for insulin injections using a syringe. Instead of giving yourself multiple injections with a syringe every day, you reinsert the needle for the insulin pump only once every two to three days.
  2. Fewer blood-glucose swings: Since you receive a continuous low dosage of insulin (basal rate) 24 hours a day, you are not prone to the rapid drop in glucose levels that can occur after insulin injections with fast-acting insulin. Using an insulin pump often improves A1C, showing that it keeps blood glucose in normal range.
  3. More flexibility: If your schedule causes you to eat at odd times or miss a meal occasionally, you can more easily adjust to these circumstances with a pump. Because pumps use fast-acting insulin, extra insulin (bolus) can be given to cover a meal with the simple push of a button.
  1. Less hypoglycemia: There are greater risks of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) with injections because you must take larger doses of insulin at one time. The continuous flow of insulin that a pump provides reduces the risk. This is especially helpful at night when injecting too much insulin could increase the risk of a low reaction during sleep.
  1. Easier exercise: You don't have to eat large amounts of carbohydrates before you work out, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Disadvantages of Insulin Pump Therapy

  1. Infection risk: If you do not change the insertion site of the cannula every two or three days, the risk of infection increases.
  2. Checking blood sugar more frequently: This is especially true during the first few months of wearing the pump. Frequent testing is the only way that you can gauge whether your basal rate and bolus are working as planned.
  3. It's clunky: When you want to sleep, be active, or get sun at the beach, you may find that being hooked up to the pump can cramp your style and feel bothersome. But remember, you can always disconnect from the pump for short periods without much worry.
  4. A greater risk of high glucose levels: Disconnecting from the pump for too long a period or not checking your blood glucose frequently could result in high blood-sugar levels, which could lead to diabetic ketoacidosis.
  5. Putting on excess pounds: There is a higher incidence of weight gain when using the pump.
  6. Price: Insulin pumps can be expensive.

Sources:

Insulin Pumps. American Diabetes Association. June 29, 2015. 

Insulin Delivery Methods. Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. 

Insulin Injections vs. Insulin Pump. Joslin Diabetes Center.

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