Is insulin pump therapy the right choice for you?

Cindy Gauthier

By Cindy Gauthier, RN, C.D.E.
Valley Diabetes Education Centre

•Who takes insulin?
The pancreas releases a small amount of insulin constantly throughout the day and night that helps to maintain your blood sugar level.
You require different amounts of insulin, depending on your activity, food intake, or stress. The healthy pancreas automatically will release the amount of insulin that is needed.
Children and adults with type 1 diabetes, and some of those with type 2 diabetes, need to take additional insulin to help regulate their blood sugars.
People taking insulin must monitor their blood sugar levels and inject insulin as needed, usually several times a day.
•What is an insulin pump?
The insulin pump is designed to make the delivery of insulin more convenient. The insulin is delivered from a small reservoir via a needle that is inserted under the skin; the needle is replaced every two days.
The pump is worn constantly and is programmed to deliver small amounts of insulin throughout the day and night. A dose of insulin is delivered with all meals and also when high blood sugars need to be corrected.
The pump only contains one kind of rapid-acting insulin.
•Who is eligible for the insulin pump?
Pump therapy has been available in Ontario to children with type 1 diabetes for several years through the Assistive Devices Program (ADP). The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care recently announced insulin pumps and supplies now would be available to adults with type 1 diabetes, if eligibility requirements are met.
This would include a visit with an endocrinologist.
At this time, people with type 2 diabetes are not eligible.
•What are the pros and cons?
Studies have not shown the insulin pump to be more effective in lowering a persons A1C (2-3 mos. average blood sugar) over conventional three-four shots of insulin/day, but it may help to eliminate wide swings in the blood sugar readings.
It may provide more flexibility in the timing of meals and the amount that can be eaten.
It also may help to control blood sugars in the early-morning hours, when the blood sugar levels can be difficult to control.
Those that are eligible and decide to use the pump will need to learn how to operate it properly. They also must be willing to do frequent blood sugar testing to calculate the correct dose of insulin needed to be delivered.
A continuous blood sugar monitoring system is available, but this optional piece of equipment is very expensive and would not be funded by the ADP.
It is important to note that insulin pump therapy may not be appropriate for everyone. If you would like more information about this device, call your diabetes nurse specialist at the Valley Diabetes Education Centre at 274-3261 ext. 4543.