|The number of people opting for insulin pump therapy grows. Worldwide, the number is approximately 300,000. Are you thinking about using this intensive-management option? Has your diabetes-care provider suggested it? Do you know someone using a pump and think it might give you improved control of your blood glucose and lifestyle?
What are the benefits of using an insulin pump?
- provides more precise insulin dosingwithin 0.025 of a unit.
- offers improved insulin absorption with continuous delivery. Insulin therapy with a pump mimics the pattern of how insulin is released in a person without diabetes.
- helps you to manage illness, growth spurts, hormone swings, other medications affecting blood glucose, varying activity levels, Dawn Phenomenon (pattern of early morning rise in blood glucose levels), or nocturnal hypoglycemia.
- reduces the peaks and valleys of severe high and low glucose levels.
- helps to decrease, or reverse, hypoglycemia unawareness.
- manages delayed food absorption by adjusting or extending the meal bolus delivery to match food absorption.
- stabilizes your A1C level.
- helps you match insulin to food. It is impossible to inject hundredths of a unit of insulin without a pump. Are you able to draw up 1.05 units into a syringe? Carbohydrate counting and target glucose level adjustments are more easily managed.
- offers increased flexibility to manage special-occasion meals, delayed meals, spontaneous activities, “sleeping in.”
- frees you from rigid management schedules.
- allows you to eat when you want to eat, not because you have to eat. One pump user says, “I can skip breakfast, I can skip lunch or eat it at 2 p.m. I can eat dinner at 4 p.m., 9 p.m. or 11 p.m. if I want.”
- lets you enjoy special-occasion foods without guilt.
- helps you feel better and increases energy. Injected insulin absorption can be unpredictable. Insulin might not be available to help you metabolize the food you have eaten, or too much insulin might be active at a time when you least expect it. Another pump user said, “I didn’t know I was feeling bad until I started feeling better.”
- gives you the freedom to travel with ease. When traveling, you can adjust insulin delivery to your destination time zone.
- allows you to eliminate daily multiple injections. With a pump, you rarely need to inject.
- lets you exercise safely. Basal insulin (constant background delivery) rates can be reduced or temporarily stopped, if needed.
- helps you plan for and maintain tighter blood glucose control for a healthier pregnancy.
- helps you manage a young child who is a “picky eater.” Meal boluses can be programmed after consumed food is added up.
- helps you to lose weight, if you are motivated.
- can improve your sense of wellbeing and quality of life.
- helps you attain a more “normal” lifestyle.
- gives you more control of your diabetes and your life
Disadvantages of Insulin Pump Therapy
You need to be motivated to learn, to monitor glucose levels frequently (4-8 times a day), to learn carbohydrate counting and have the self discipline to be consistent. While the insulin pump may help to set you free, there is a heavy learning curve. One needs to have the ability to do some self directed learning as well as some math. Costs are considerable, about $6,500 for the pump and about $300 per month for pump supplies. Many private insurance plans realize the benefits and will pay for the pump and supplies, some pay only a proportion of the pump cost and some cover supplies. You need to determine your insurance benefits and if they may cover pump costs you will need a certificate of necessity from your physician. Provincial Government drug plans generally do not cover pumps or pump supplies. Canadian First Nations individuals may be able to obtain an insulin pump through the federal government “Non Insured Health Benefits” plan.
If you think you want the benefits of insulin pump therapy, discuss your reasons with your diabetes team.
There are several manufacturers of insulin pumps; most will have staff to answer your questions and assist with processing for insurance coverage once your health-care provider writes a prescription. You will want to research not only the initial costs of the pump but also the ongoing costs of the infusion sets and other pump supplies. There are a variety of insulin pumps available so you can choose the one that will best meet your lifestyle and diabetes management needs.