Insulin Pumps and Continuous Glucose Monitors

Are these Diabetes Devices Right for You?

Using an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor can help people with diabetes better manage blood glucose levels.  Should you be using them?  This article provides clear information on insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors so that you can talk to your diabetes treatment team about these diabetes devices.

insulin pumpMedical device manufacturers now make little computer controlled machines that do 2 main things:

  • check your blood sugar every few minutes—that’s a continuous glucose monitor
  • pump small and continuous doses of fast-acting insulin—that’s an insulin pump

Many people with diabetes report that continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps help them reduce their average blood glucose and drive down their hemoglobin A1c scores. Some people who use these sensing and pumping systems are even able to reduce their blood glucose to levels close to those of non-diabetics.

How Does a Continuous Glucose Monitor Work?
A small sensor is inserted into your skin within a few inches of your belly button. That sensor sends blood glucose readings to a little computer unit you carry with you. If your blood glucose (blood sugar) goes too high or low, the computer unit beeps to alert you that you need to administer insulin or eat some carbohydrates.

How Does an Insulin Pump Work?
The same computer unit that captures your blood glucose data also contains short-acting insulin and pumps it out a little at a time. It pumps the insulin through a small tube inserted into you abdomen. Some systems also have a bolus feature that lets you administer a little bit more insulin if your blood sugar gets too high.

Drawbacks to Continuous Glucose Monitors and Insulin Pumps
While continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps have many advantages, they are not for everyone—that’s why you need to education yourself on these diabetes treatment options and discuss them with your doctor and diabetes treatment team.

Drawback #1:  Cost
Continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps are expensive to own, operate, and maintain. Currently, many insurance companies will not pay for them, unfortunately.

Drawback #2:  Learning Curve
Learning to insert the sensor and insulin tube is complex. Moreover, learning to understand the computer, calibrate it, and program it can be challenging for some people with diabetes.

Discuss Continuous Glucose Monitors and Insulin Pumps with Your Doctor
If you think you might benefit from a continuous glucose monitor and an insulin pump, talk to your doctor.  He or she will be able to help you make the decision, taking into consideration the cost and effect on your life.

A continuous glucose monitor and insulin pump can help you better manage your blood glucose levels, avoiding those swings from hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) to hypoglycemia (low blood glucose).

First published on: April 14, 2011
Updated on: February 9, 2017
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