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What is a Diabetes Pump?

By Deneatra Harmon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A diabetes pump is a device that delivers insulin through a specialized catheter. The use of the diabetes pump eliminates the need for a type 1 diabetic patient to take daily injections, and it offers with several other advantages and disadvantages. The insulin pump helps to make diabetes management easier because it can be programmed to deliver insulin doses throughout the day. The device must be maintained often to ensure accurate blood sugar level readings and proper dosing.

The pump consists of a computerized device that resembles a pager, an infusion set, and some tubing. The main component includes a compartment or reservoir that stores the insulin. In addition to a computer screen, it also features a battery, computer chip, and a pumping mechanism. The diabetes pump may be attached as an armband, to a belt or a holster, or stored in a pocket.

Another part of the diabetes pump, the infusion set, attaches to the skin with the help of a tube. Functioning similarly to a catheter, the infusion set transfers the insulin from the pump to the body. A short tube connects underneath the infusion portion of the diabetes pump to help inject insulin into the skin.

This device comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. One of the biggest pluses of the insulin pump is that it serves as an alternative to taking needle injections. The pump is also known to provide insulin at the right time and in accurate amounts, thus making it more convenient and better at regulating blood glucose levels. An insulin pump also reduces the chances of experiencing low blood sugar episodes. It also allows flexibility for the patient to determine when and what to eat while maintaining normal glucose levels.

Some disadvantages of the diabetes pump include weight gain and the risk of suffering diabetic ketoacidosis, or the lack of insulin. Diabetic ketoacidosis can result if the insulin pump becomes disconnected from the body. Cost also appears to be an issue because the pump tends to be more expensive than injections. The diabetes pump must stay attached to the body most of the time, so it may feel bulky and bothersome to some users. Overall, the pump seems to be the more popular, preferred way of taking insulin compared to using the sometimes painful needle, according to some medical experts.

Once the insulin pump is in place, the patient must communicate with his or her diabetes care team to program the device and keep blood sugar levels within the right ranges. The pump delivers insulin doses in different categories, including basal, bolus, and supplementary. The basal dose helps to maintain normal blood glucose levels between meals and at night. The patient may also press a button on the pump to deliver a bolus dose, which covers the amount of carbohydrates eaten during meals and treats high blood sugar levels. A supplemental dose may also sometimes be needed before meals to take high blood sugar levels down to normal.

The insulin pump also provides durability, thereby allowing a user to wear the device for several years. Maintenance helps to keep the pump working properly. The insulin reservoir, infusion set, tube, and insulin supply must be changed at least every few days.

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