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Insulin Pump Therapy - The Pros and Cons

Why Consider Insulin Pump Therapy?

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Updated March 06, 2010

Insulin Pump Therapy - The Pros and Cons

Insulin Pump Infusion Set

NIDDK

Insulin pump therapy is used by tens of thousands of people of all ages. Many studies have shown improved glucose management outcomes for those using insulin pumps. And while it does allow for more flexibility in lifestyle and 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 as you weigh your decision.

Advantages:

  1. An insulin pump eliminates the need for insulin injections using a syringe. Instead of multiple injections every day, you only need to reinsert the needle for insulin pump once every two to three days.
  2. You may be able to level out many blood glucose swings. Because 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.
  3. Insulin pumps increase the flexibility of your diabetes management. 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.
  4. An insulin pump can reduce low blood sugar reactions (hypoglycemia). There are greater risks of hypoglycemia with injections because you must take larger doses of insulin at one time. The continuous flow of insulin a pump provides reduces the risk of a low. This is especially helpful at night when injecting too much insulin could increase the risk of a low reaction during sleep.

Disadvantages:

  1. There is a risk of infection. If you do not change the insertion site of the cannula every two or three days the risk of infection increases.
  2. You may need to check your blood sugar more frequently. This is especially true during the first few months of wearing the pump. Frequent testing is the only way you can gauge whether your basal rate and bolus are working as planned.
  3. Wearing a pump can be bothersome at times. When you want to be active, sun at the beach or sleep, you may find that being hooked up to the pump can cramp your style. But remember, you can always disconnect from the pump for short periods without much worry.
  4. You have a greater risk of high glucose levels that could lead to diabetic ketoacidosis. Disconnecting from the pump for too long a period or not checking blood glucose frequently could result in high blood sugar levels.

Sources:

Insulin Pumps. American Diabetes Association. Retrieved November 16, 2008. http://www.diabetes.org/type-1-diabetes/insulin-pumps.jsp

Insulin Delivery Methods. Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. Retrieved November 16, 2008. http://www.jdrf.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewpage&page_id=9F5D5B7B-1321-C834-032C9FF29C342CE1

Insulin Injections vs. Insulin Pump. Joslin Diabetes Center. Retrieved November 16, 2008. http://www.joslin.org/managing_your_diabetes_4509.asp

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