Amy Tenderich was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May of 2003. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Diabetes Mine and co-authored the book Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes. You will frequently find her speaking at diabetes, health, and social media events across the country.
If you already take multiple daily injections (called MDI treatment), think for a moment about what bothers you most. Maybe you’re embarrassed to use your syringes in public. Or maybe you struggle with predicting exactly how much food you plan to eat in advance in order set your injection doses. Or maybe you’re just fed up with having to interrupt your activities throughout the day to unpack all your injection supplies and give yourself shots.
Let’s face it, shots are very inconvenient.
Drawbacks of shots
It’s uncomfortable to have to poke yourself with a needle up to a dozen times a day. Also, shots only give you an instant, one-time burst of insulin that wears off in a few hours (even long-acting insulins gradually become less effective throughout the day). So it’s really important to stick to a pre-determined schedule of eating and exercising—otherwise the insulin won’t peak at the right moment, and your glucose levels will be out of range. To keep your blood sugars steady with shots, you often have to keep “chasing the highs” with more injections. That is frustrating—to say the least.
Benefits of a pump
What a pump offers is freedom from all that hassle. If you decide to eat a little more, or have a mid-day snack, you just push a button to administer more insulin. And even better, the continuous background drip of insulin mimics the action of a healthy pancreas, so your blood sugar levels can remain much steadier.
Best of all: with the advantages of a pump, you may enjoy life more!
What does an insulin pump look like? And how does it work?
An insulin pump is a device about the size of a deck of cards or a pager that can be worn on a belt or kept in a pocket. Most models have just two to four buttons on the front as controls. You push up and down arrows to manage all the functions, just like you might do when setting an alarm clock, for example.
The insulin is housed inside the main unit in a little cartridge called a “reservoir.” It travels into your body through a narrow, flexible plastic tube that ends with a tiny needle called a “cannula” inserted just under the skin. The needle is held in place by a little adhesive patch called an “infusion set.”
Different types and sizes of infusion sets may be comfortable for different body types. Most infusion sets these days are spring-loaded, meaning that all you do is peel off the paper protecting the adhesive pad, place the device against your skin, press a button—and voila! You are set up to receive insulin for about three days.