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The Insulin Pump: Is It Right for You? Insulin pumps can offer a lot of benefits to some people with diabetes, but they're not for everyone. Here are some things to keep in mind if you're thinking about going on the pump.
Studies have shown that both insulin pumps and multiple daily insulin shots are safe ways for kids to treat diabetes. Pumps work much like a healthy pancreas does: They continually send small amounts of insulin (called a "basal rate") into your body. Pumps allow you to change the basal rate, since your body reacts to insulin differently at different times of day. They also allow you to give an extra dose, or "bolus," of insulin at mealtimes, just as the pancreas does, to cover the carbohydrates you eat.
Pumps can also give you more freedom:
- With most insulin injection plans, you have to eat at pre-set times each day to match the time when your last insulin dose is "peaking." With insulin pumps, you can eat whenever you want. You just have to give yourself an insulin "bolus" when you're about ready to eat. In fact, sometimes you can even skip meals without worrying about low blood sugar.
- You can sleep late on weekends because you don't have to wake up to give yourself a shot.
- You can play sports and be active whenever you want without risking low blood sugar: All you have to do is turn down your basal infusion rate - or disconnect the pump completely - while you're being active.
Get real, though: Don't think your pump is going to manage your diabetes for you. You need a lot of training to use an insulin pump. You have to learn to count carbohydrates, test your blood sugar frequently, and adjust your insulin doses.
Another drawback is that sometimes the pump can malfunction, or the tubing can become kinked or blocked, cutting off your supply of insulin. This can quickly lead to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and possibly even a life-threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis. Luckily, insulin pumps now have alarms to tell you when something's wrong so you can do something about it. Infections can occur where the cannula pierces the skin, but you can keep this from happening by changing the syringe and tubing every couple of days and keeping the skin around the area clean.
Some people think they'll stand out if they wear the pump, but pumps are now so small that you can wear them on your belt or under your clothes. Usually, other people don't notice the pump or they think it's a pager. (And some kids actually think they're cool!) Even so, some people just never get used to the idea of being "hooked up to a machine" all day long.
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