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.
To be clear, an insulin pump is NOT an artificial pancreas or a cure for diabetes. Unlike a healthy pancreas, a pump cannot work completely automatically; the pump can’t decide how much insulin you need or when you need it. This makes the person running it the most important part of the pump.
With a pump, you still need to use a glucose monitor (and prick your finger) to check your blood sugar levels. Plus you’ll need to learn to count carbohydrates in order to calculate how much “bolus” (pre-meal) insulin is needed in order to punch in the correct amount of insulin dose.
On the whole, however, you’ll find that using a pump is less work than taking injections—and the results are better, too!
Remember that people who are insulin-dependent have to get the insulin into their bodies throughout the day, every day. The two ways to do this are: multiple daily injections (MDI), or this ingenious little machine (insulin pump) that automatically administers a base-level of insulin subcutaneously (under the skin) on a set schedule, in accordance with meals.
The pump delivers a single type of fast-acting insulin in two ways:
- As a background or “basal” dose that’s pumped in continuously at an adjustable rate to deliver the insulin needed between meals and overnight.
- As a “bolus” dose that the user can administer any time to cover food eaten or to correct a high blood glucose level.
The clear advantages of wearing an insulin pump are:
- no more syringes
- no more mixing insulins
- no more loose supplies to schlep around (you still need backups for emergencies, but you’ll no longer be dependent on all those loose supplies all day, every day)
- flexibility (no more watching the clock)
- continuous drip for precise insulin dosing
- improved glucose control (the ability to “turn up” or “turn down” your insulin as necessary really helps!)
- freedom of movement
- fewer everyday hassles and better overall glucose control