Thumbnail image of: Diabetes Action Plan: Illustration, page 1
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Insulin Pump

What is an insulin pump?

An insulin pump is a device that delivers insulin continuously while it is connected. The insulin flows through a thin tube called a catheter that is placed under the skin or attached directly to the skin. It can help keep blood sugar levels in the proper range day and night.

How does the insulin pump work?

The pump delivers insulin doses in different ways:

  • Basal insulin, which is your continuous insulin dose, usually delivered hourly over 24 hours. It keeps blood sugar levels in the proper range between meals and overnight.
  • Extra insulin, called a bolus. A bolus is rapid-acting insulin delivered near mealtime. Bolus (extra) doses can also be used to treat high blood glucose. You can push a button on the insulin pump to get more insulin. If you have high blood sugar before eating, a bolus of insulin can bring the blood sugar back to the proper range.

When you have an insulin pump, your healthcare provider will tell you how often to test your blood sugar levels. You may need to test at least 4 times a day. Never ignore a high blood sugar reading.

How is it worn?

An insulin pump can be worn in a pump case or it can be attached to a waistband, pocket, bra, sock, or underwear. You can tuck any excess tubing into the waistband of underwear or pants.

During sleep, the pump can be worn on a waistband, armband, or leg band.

Insulin pumps are water resistant, but should not be put directly in the water. The pumps have a port that lets you disconnect the pump from the catheter for swimming, bathing, or showering.

When you exercise, you can wear an armband or an elastic waistband with a pump case. For some activities you may need to take the pump off so that you don’t fall on it. You should not go longer than 1 to 2 hours without any insulin. Check your blood sugar as often as your healthcare provider recommends, which could be as often as every hour while the pump is disconnected. Blood sugar and ketone levels could go up while you are not getting insulin. You may need to give yourself a dose of insulin if your blood sugar goes too high before you reconnect the pump.

What are the benefits of an insulin pump?

Some benefits of using an insulin pump are:

  • The pump delivers insulin into the body more accurately than shots and may result in fewer large swings in blood sugar levels.
  • The pump can be used to lower basal insulin during exercise so large amounts of carbohydrate don’t need to be eaten to prevent a low blood sugar.
  • The pump lets you be more flexible about when and what you eat. Meal boluses may be changed based on the foods you choose to eat. This allows you to eat when hungry, have more food choices, or delay a meal if needed. It is still important to make good food choices to avoid weight gain.
  • Using an insulin pump means you don’t have to keep getting insulin shots.

What are the disadvantages of an insulin pump?

The disadvantages of an insulin pump are:

  • If the catheter accidentally comes out or the tubes get kinked, blood sugar may get high and cause problems. You can also get a dangerous buildup of acids in your blood (ketoacidosis) more quickly than if you were using insulin shots. If your blood sugar is unusually high, it’s important to check your pump to make sure it’s working correctly.
  • Insulin pumps can be costly.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-01-07
Last reviewed: 2015-01-08
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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