Insulin Pump Therapy for Type 2 Diabetes
People living with Type 2 diabetes are required to have extensive knowledge about syringes, blood glucose levels, and insulin. Type 2 diabetes requires the person to check their blood several times a day and adjust their meals accordingly. Some people have accepted this daily math and calculations as just as part of their life. Others are frustrated when they can’t just eat bread and sweets whenever they want. Luckily, now there are insulin pumps, which help people monitor their blood glucose levels, and automatically adjust by providing subcutaneous insulin.
For many years, people who are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes have relied on blood glucose meters to help them balance their blood glucose levels and have carefully judged the right amount of insulin to use, injecting it with a syringe or pen. This method, which has been the standard for many years, relies on a person’s judgement of their own body, mood, and behavior to determine when they need to test. Then, if adjustments need to be made, the patient is responsible for injecting themselves with insulin.
Today, we’re going to talk about the pros and cons of insulin pumps to help manage Type 2 diabetes.
What’s an Insulin Pump?
If you’ve been offered the option of insulin pump therapy by your doctor, it might make you feel a bit uncertain at first. Also known as continuous subcutaneous insulin therapy, insulin levels are regulated using a small pump that’s attached to a cannula, a small needle inserted into the body.
Instead of using a syringe or insulin pen, insulin is delivered from the pump via a small tube into the body. The pump itself is a tiny device, usually smaller than a pack of cards. It has buttons to program the insulin, a display screen, a battery compartment, and a reservoir compartment that holds and disperses the insulin. Instead of having to use multiple syringes per day, an insulin pump has a reservoir that only requires filling every two to three days. The reservoir can hold up to 300 units of insulin at a time.
How Do Insulin Pumps Work?
To start using an insulin pump, you’ll need to first insert a cannula into your subcutaneous tissue. The cannula is a thin, flexible needle made of either Teflon or steel that can either be inserted by hand, or by using a spring-loaded insertion device, depending on your preference.
After the cannula is inserted and secured to the body, it’s connected to tubing, which connects to the small pump itself. The pump can be carried on the belt or tucked into a pocket. Ideally, it is quite unobtrusive, and eventually people using it should feel completely comfortable wearing it all the time. The cannula needs to be changed every few days, and a different site should be used every 7-10 days. 
After all the pieces are in place, you will be able to program the pump to deliver insulin. There are some new pumps that take your blood glucose levels in addition to delivering insulin, but not all models do this, so you should be prepared to continue your regular testing regime. Some people choose to also wear a continuous glucose monitor in addition to their insulin pump, but this is a matter of choice. 
Advantages of Using an Insulin Pump
There are several advantages to using an insulin pump rather than using a syringe or pen. 
For many people, it gives them the freedom and flexibility eat, exercise, and live the life they want, because the pump uses rapid-acting insulin to inject insulin when you feel you’ll need it. You can program your insulin pump to inject the exact dosage you need, without having to re-test every time. For people who are tired or afraid of injections, it also cuts down on the amount of injections that they’ll need on a daily basis.
Many people who have lifelong Type 2 diabetes are vulnerable to damage to their eyes, heart, kidney, and nerves if they’re unable to manage their blood glucose levels effectively. Insulin pumps give you more control and offer the potential for fewer of these long-term complications from Type 2 diabetes if they’re used correctly. The longer you use an insulin pump, the more you’ll be able to avoid the unpredictable lows and highs that come from uneven absorption rates. The cannula, especially when it’s moved every week or so, goes a long way to ensuring even absorption.
Disadvantages of Using an Insulin Pump
People who are just getting started with insulin pumps may see them as a blanket solution for the tedious business of testing and retesting blood glucose levels, followed by individual insulin shots. However, it’s important to be aware that there are some disadvantages to using an insulin pump. If a pump is not maintained correctly, there is a major risk for diabetic ketoacidosis.  If you aren’t using a subcutaneous blood glucose monitor, you are still committed to checking your levels at least four times a day. Some people also report skin infections and irritations where the cannula enters the body. Pumps are also expensive and may not be covered by your insurance. A lot of people also fear that walking around with a pump attached to their body will invite unwelcome questions regarding their private medical condition.
Getting Started with an Insulin Pump
To get started with an insulin pump, you’ll need to talk to your doctor as well as your diabetes specialist and let them know that you’re interested in managing your Type 2 diabetes with a pump. Your health support team should be able to help you set up your pump and will be able to teach you how to use it effectively. They’ll help you get your first cannula set up, and coach you on the preparation of new sites and how to monitor your pump to make sure it’s working effectively. You’ll need to calculate the starting doses of insulin needed, and strictly monitor your blood glucose levels, especially at the beginning, when some fine-tuning may be needed to ensure your pump is optimized to your body. 
After that, it should be easy to use your insulin pump to manage your blood glucose levels with only occasional adjustments.
- Rice, Donna, and Kay Sweeney. “Choosing and Using an Insulin Pump Infusion Set.” Diabetes Self-Management, Madavor Media, LLC, 14 Apr. 2013, www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/diabetes-resources/tools-tech/choosing-and-using-an-insulin-pump-infusion-set/.
- Tenderich, Amy. “Use of Blood Glucose Meters Among People With Type 2 Diabetes: Patient Perspectives.” Diabetes Spectrum, American Diabetes Association, 1 May 2013, spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/26/2/67.
- “Advantages of Using an Insulin Pump.” American Diabetes Association, 9 Dec. 2013, www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/insulin/advantages-of-using-an-insulin-pump.html.
- “What You Should Know About Diabetic Ketoacidosis.” WebMD, WebMD, 2016, www.webmd.com/diabetes/ketoacidosis.
- “Insulin Pump Therapy.” Waterloo Wellington Diabetes, May 2013, www.waterloowellingtondiabetes.ca/userContent/documents/Public-Resource%20Library/Insulin%20Pump%20Therapy%20Booklet_May2013.pdf.