How Does an Insulin Pump Work?
An insulin pump works according to similar principles as a syringe and vial. The insulin pump has a cartridge filled with insulin inside of it and the cartridge, instead of a little needle, has a little tube that is inserted into the body to deliver the insulin. The pump squeezes a small amount of insulin into the body throughout the day. This continuous drip of insulin is referred to as a “basal rate”. At mealtime, the pump will push a large amount of insulin into the body all at once. This is referred to as a “bolus”.
The potential disadvantages of an insulin pump are that some people will notice a little bit of weight gain as they initially go on the insulin pump, and this often just related to improved blood sugar control. It doesn’t go on forever. It’s usually only the first month or two that the weight gain is observed.
The second is an increased risk for a condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a situation with diabetes where the blood sugars are very high. The body can actually start burning up body fat for fuel, and this causes an imbalance in the acidic nature of your blood. This can actually result in a coma, if not taken care of. Healthcare teams train and monitor insulin pump users to minimize the risk of DKA. DKA is more common with insulin pump users, because that basal insulin can be interrupted if the pump stops working or if the tube comes out of the body.
Lastly, depending on insurance coverage, it can be expensive to use insulin pump therapy, and for some people, the cost is too high.
The initial training period of an insulin pump is pretty intense, and insulin pump users have to work very closely with their healthcare teams for about one to two months with regular visits and phone contact.