Pros and Cons of Insulin Pumps

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An insulin pump is an option for people with type 1 diabetes and for people with type 2 diabetes who need insulin. It's a tiny computer you can hold in your hand. You program the pump to deliver insulin as a continuous dose—basal rate—or in a higher dose when needed—bolus. The pump attaches to you with a flexible plastic tube and a small needle you insert under your skin.

If you need an insulin pump, your diabetes care team will help you learn how to use it. You will need to learn how to program the pump to fit your needs. You will also learn how to insert the needle, and how and when to change the needle and tube.

There are lots of different pumps. Your team will help you find the best one for you. But, there are both advantages and disadvantages to consider.

Advantages of an Insulin Pump

The biggest advantage is you don’t need to give yourself daily injections. You can match your insulin to your lifestyle rather than planning your life around insulin injections.

Other advantages:

  • Insulin pumps deliver insulin more accurately than insulin injections, in a manner more like your body normally releases insulin.

  • Insulin pumps do a better job of improving your A1C—a test that measures your average blood sugar levels over the last 3 months.

  • Insulin pumps avoid the unpredictability of intermediate or long-acting injectable insulin. The result is fewer highs and lows, and better diabetes management.

  • You can adjust an insulin pump around your diet. This lets you be more flexible about what and when you eat.

  • You can adjust an insulin pump to your level of exercise. You won’t need to load up on carbohydrates before you exercise.

Disadvantages of Insulin Pumps

It may take some time to learn how to use your insulin pump. Here are other possible negatives to consider:

  • Some people gain weight while using an insulin pump.
  • You can get into trouble if your pump stops working or your catheter comes out. If you don’t get any insulin for several hours, you can develop a dangerous condition called ketoacidosis.

  • You might find you don’t like wearing your pump all the time.
  • You're more likely to develop a skin infection at the pump insertion site than you are with insulin injections.

  • Insulin pumps and infusion set supplies can be expensive. Check with your insurance carrier to find out what it covers.

If you decide to try an insulin pump, you may need to spend a day in the hospital getting started. With time, you will find the best site to place your needle and the best way to wear your pump. You will also learn what to do with the pump when you sleep and when you bathe, swim or shower.
Once you get started, you should be able to use your pump and lead an active lifestyle without much difficulty. Most pump users find the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Talk with your team to make the right decision for you.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Nov 28
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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