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Insulin pumps may be an important tool for anybody with diabetes, particularly type 1, who needs to put insulin into their body.
The primary treatment for type 1 diabetes is the administration of insulin.
This article discusses what insulin pumps are and who would benefit from using them. It also explores features of insulin pumps, insulin pump products, and some frequently asked questions.
A person wears an insulin pump outside their body. It is a small machine that provides bursts of insulin through a tube and needle as and when needed. Some insulin pumps do not use needles and tubes but attach directly to the skin.
A person may wish to consider some of the following features when buying an insulin pump:
- the highest dosage, also called a bolus, and if this is enough for a person’s needs
- how much insulin the pump holds
- battery life and type
- compatibility of the infusion set, or needle and tubing
- if it can work in conjunction with a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) or glucose meter
- additional features that may benefit a person, such as meal bolus calculators or water resistance
People will need a prescription to purchase an insulin pump.
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Insurance can often cover the price of the products, depending on an individual’s plan.
A person should never purchase an insulin pump from a company that does not require a prescription.
All the insulin pumps below require a prescription to purchase, and pricing is dependent on a person’s insurance coverage. People who wish to buy a pump should contact the manufacturer with their healthcare and insurance details.
For an integrated CGM
This model from Medtronic comes with an optional CGM so a person can also monitor their blood sugar levels using the same device. It is also compatible with the Contour Next Link 2.4 blood glucose meter.
Medtronic claims that this system makes a person four times more likely to reach their target A1C level, which is their average blood glucose level over about 3 months.
Other stand out features include:
- alarms if a person goes below their preset glucose levels — the device will stop issuing insulin if a person does not respond
- a bolus calculator, which automatically calculates doses and tells a person if they set them too close together
- predictive alerts
- waterproof protection
- color screen with adjustable brightness
- personalized skins available
Some of the features above require the CGM.
A person should change the tubing every 2 or 3 days.
For an exercise setting
This alternative device from Medtronic is suitable for people with type 1 diabetes aged 2 and older. This is an upgraded version of the previously listed MiniMed 670G system.
Additional features include:
- compatibility with a smartphone app, which can deliver glucose results
- compatibility with the Carelink Connect app, which allows friends, family, and caregivers to access information
- an exercise setting, which automatically changes a person’s glucose target
- automatic adjustment of background insulin every 5 minutes to help a person stay on target
- water resistance
Some of these features require the CGM.
For a tubeless device
This insulin pump does not require tubes. The pump inserts through a device that enters the skin at the push of a button. A person can wear it on their body where they would normally inject insulin.
Other features include:
- three days’ worth of insulin storage
- bolus calculator, presets, and a library of more than 80,000 foods
- people can deliver insulin from anywhere using a smartphone-like Personal Diabetes Manager device
- compatible app for smartphones, which displays all readings and allows for notifications and alarms
- suitable for those with type 1 or type 2 diabetes
Many insurance companies cover the Omnipod Dash. It is also available through pharmacies with a prescription.
For a slim design
This pump from Tandem has a slim design. The company claims it is 38% smaller than competitors’ products.
Additional features of the t:slim X2 include:
- 300 units of insulin storage
- color touchscreen that is easy to read
- integrates with the Dexcom G6 CGM
- when a person uses it with the CGM, they can choose from two predictive technologies
- adjusts insulin delivery to avoid highs and lows
- a person can view glucose and insulin history
- compatible with a mobile app via Bluetooth
- automatic correction boluses delivered
- rechargeable battery
Some of the features above require the CGM.
Below are some of the most common questions and answers about insulin pumps.
Who qualifies for an insulin pump?
A person may be able to get an insulin pump if they are currently taking insulin injections. A person should discuss this with a doctor.
Does an insulin pump hurt?
Generally, insulin pumps should be painless and easy to use, particularly compared with regular injections. However, tubing can catch or get tangled, which could cause strain and soreness at the infusion site.
How much is an insulin pump without insurance?
It is unclear how much an insulin pump may cost without insurance. However, many companies offer financial assistance and payment plans if required.
How does an insulin pump work?
The American Diabetes Association states that insulin pumps are small, computerized devices. They deliver insulin in a steady and continuous dose, or basal rate, which the user programs. They also deliver insulin as a surge dose, or bolus, under the user’s direction.
The insulin enters the body through a thin tube that attaches to a needle, which goes under the skin. People refer to the tube and needle together as an infusion set.
Insulin pumps may play a vital role for those with diabetes who need more insulin in their body. Pumps can be an alternative to a person injecting themselves with insulin several times a day.
Many insulin pumps have smart features and can be compatible with smartphones or CGMs.
A person must have a prescription to receive an insulin pump, and insurance may cover the cost.