Understanding Insulin Pumps and Insulin Pump Therapy


Understanding how insulin affects your blood glucose levels, and how insulin pump therapy works, will help you with diabetes management.

What is insulin?

 Insulin is a hormone produced by cells in the pancreas, which helps our bodies convert glucose (sugar) from food into energy. It’s an essential component for keeping blood sugar levels in check. If your blood sugar level is high, for example, insulin is released to help absorb excess glucose from the bloodstream and lower levels. If your blood sugar level is low, another pancreatic hormone – glucagon – is released to help deliver glucose to the bloodstream and raise blood sugar levels. 

In diabetes, the pancreas either does not produce insulin (type 1 diabetes) at all or it does not produce or use insulin effectively (type 2 diabetes). In type 2 diabetes, the condition is called insulin resistance, in which the function of insulin is impaired causing glucose to build up in the bloodstream, and ultimately, raising blood sugar levels.

Insulin resistance usually occurs before a diabetes diagnosis. Over time, the body can become more and more resistant to insulin, causing the pancreas to work overtime in secreting the hormone. The pancreas may eventually stop secreting insulin.

Hence, those who are diagnosed with diabetes must pay careful attention to how insulin is functioning in their body by monitoring their blood glucose levels.

What is insulin pump therapy?

Insulin pump therapy can help in diabetes management. In type 1 diabetes, your pancreas does not secrete enough insulin to process the glucose received from food, so regular insulin intake is required to keep your body functioning properly. There are two ways to intake insulin: by manual injection or through an insulin pump.

An insulin pump is a computer device that mimics the pancreas. It’s worn continuously and delivers a dose of insulin at a programmed rate via an infusion set – a thin plastic tube connected to a cannula, or needle. There are two rates at which insulin is delivered: a basal (background) rate, which delivers insulin continuously, and a bolus rate, which delivers injections to correct levels manually. The pump sends an immediate shot of insulin through a syringe, usually into the abdomen or upper buttocks.

The benefits of insulin pump therapy

Insulin pumps have become increasingly more popular, since insulin pump therapy is considered a flexible treatment option that can be adjusted to meet your lifestyle needs. You can vary the dose of insulin released depending on activity level or dietary needs.  For example, if you plan to be more active, you can lower the insulin release rate. In contrast, if you plan to be more sedentary, you can increase the rate. You also can manually deliver insulin if more is needed.

Insulin pump therapy increases quality of life for many diabetics, since most insulin pumps are discrete, safe and convenient. Most pumps resemble a pager, are battery-operated, and can be attached to a waistband, pocket or bra. They can be worn during most physical activities and at night. They’re generally considered safe – if a problem with the pump occurs, an alarm sounds.

Managing blood glucose levels is often easier through insulin pump therapy. Fluctuations in blood sugar often experienced when injecting insulin are evened out in insulin pump therapy, since the insulin delivery rate is programmed.

Even with an insulin pump, it’s still important to monitor blood sugar levels and regularly test your blood sugar while using insulin pump therapy.

Fauqueir Health can help with insulin pump management. Improve your diabetes self-management, utilize your insulin pump features and fine tune your settings with our insulin pump management program. Doctor’s referral required for insurance coverage.

Additional Diabetes Resources:

-       Lifestyle Tips for Managing Diabetes

-       Diabetes Q&A

-       Is Continuous Glucose Monitoring Right for Me? 

If you’re interested in learning more about Fauquier Health’s diabetes treatment options, visit our Diabetes Services page or call us at (540) 316 -2652.


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