Things I Can't Stand About My Insulin Pump

Part 2

Clay Wirestone

| Jun 28, 2012

As I said in my previous article on this subject, my insulin pump has changed my life. My A1C has improved, I've felt more energetic, and I've controlled my diabetes more effectively overall. It has been the biggest and best change in my diabetes treatment since I started on insulin a quarter-century ago.

But it hasn't all been great. Indeed, actually living with a pump day in and day out proves how far the technology has to go. We haven't reached the age of human-robot integration. As a matter of fact, we don't even know when that age will begin.

My point is simple: My relationship with my pump is complicated. I love it for the control it gives me over my disease, but I detest it for its flakiness, its arbitrary malfunctions, and the host of tiny aggravations that turn it from a blessing into a curse.

Here, then, are five more of my pump aggravations.

The Expense

I shouldn't complain about this, given that I'm blessed with an insurance plan that covers most of my insulin pump costs. But they sure are pricey, aren't they? And they sure require a lot of expensive disposable parts, don't they?

A lot has been written about healthcare cost inflation, and medical devices certainly seem to take a nice cut of insurance dollars. Assuming that my pump company is selling the devices at a reasonable markup, my co-pay isn't even required for them to turn a profit. So what's the point? It's not as though my costs are going to persuade me to use fewer pumps. It's not like that's even an option.

The Lagging Technology

For the cost, pumps should be better technically than they are today, with their black-and-white displays and clunky connectivity options. We're living in 2012, but pumps seem to be stuck in 1997. I'm sure the US government's regulatory system is somewhat to blame here--it can takes years for new medical devices and treatments to enter the market. But couldn't the pump companies look a tiny bit further ahead? I paid $99 for my cell phone, and it takes pictures, browses the Web, plays games, and makes phone calls. Couldn't pumps do a few of those things, too?

The Explanations

This is an insulin pump. No, it doesn't check my blood sugar. Yes, I'm aware that it makes me look like a bionic man. No, it doesn't automatically know how much insulin to give me. No, it's not a cure for diabetes.

If you have a pump and have talked to people about it, these replies will sound familiar to you. People generally don't know much about insulin pumps. Pacemakers, they know. Artificial joints, they know. Mechanical limbs or organs are unusual, but at least it's pretty clear what they're replacing.

The concept of an insulin pump--kind of an external pancreas, but one you have to program and maintain on your own--doesn't lend itself to immediate understanding. An insulin shot, people get. Cannulas, control units, basal rates? You might as well be speaking a boring, unintelligible language.

The Whole Production Number

Say what you like about insulin needles, they are pretty convenient. On a basic level, a person with type 1 diabetes needs a syringe and a bottle of insulin. Easy. Pumps, on the other hand, require supplies. You have the disposable pumps or infusion sets. You still have the insulin bottles, along with just-in-case syringes. And don't forget those bandages, just in case the pump starts to peel away. Yes, you only need many of those supplies once every two or three days. But you'd better have them. Is it so crazy to wish that keeping and changing pumps was easier and less cluttered?

The Half Measures

The dirty little secret about insulin pumps is that they're not enough. Okay, maybe that's not a secret. An insulin pump is a way station. It's a pause on the road toward an artificial pancreas. Despite years of advances in the technology, pumps still haven't grown up. As mentioned earlier, the technology can be dated. The communication between various units can be difficult. And my pump still doesn't deliver insulin based on a biofeedback loop.

I know. These things take time. And I'm grateful for what my pump has given me. But I hope to see the day when pumps are understood as an intermediate stage in diabetes care. It can't come fast enough.

So, Diabetes Health readers, what do you think? Do you have an insulin pump that drives you crazy? Let us know what gets on your nerves in the comments section below.

Click Here To View Or Post Comments

Categories: A1C, Diabetes, Diabetes Health, Diabetic, Insulin Pump


Take the Diabetes Health Pump Survey
See What's Inside
Read this FREE issue now
For healthcare professionals only

You can view the current or previous issues of Diabetes Health online, in their entirety, anytime you want.
Click Here To View

See if you qualify for our free healthcare professional magazines. Click here to start your application for Pre-Diabetes Health, Diabetes Health Pharmacist and Diabetes Health Professional.

Learn More About the Professional Subscription

Free Diabetes Health e-Newsletter

Latest
Popular
Top Rated
Print | Email | Share | Comments (2)

You May Also Be Interested In...


Comments

Posted by Anonymous on 3 July 2012

I have to agree with you that insulin pumps do have room (lots of room) for improvement. With that being said, after taking injections with syringes for 12 yrs before going on my pump, I will never look back. The variability of current basal, or long-acting insulin is scary, causing many of the 'unexplained' low BGs we PWDs have. Lows and highs are going to happen but I know on my pump and using my CGM I have very few now and know my A1c is a more accurate 'average'. Cost, well, they are expensive but research and development isn't cheap, especially when the FDA requires 'controlled' as well as 'real life' trials to occur before a company can even think about submitting for approval of a new device. We aren't to a closed-loop system yet but it's around the corner (pending FDA of course), and if you look outside the US (hopefully in the US if you've read recent Medtronic press releases) you will find a partial closed-loop system being used. Closed-loop systems are functioning in clinical settings right now as well, but for now we can pass on and share our thoughts and know we have the best available system currently available to us in the US. Thanks for the write-up!

Posted by Anonymous on 8 July 2012

My daughter decided to go back to pens and needles because she said that having a pump always remembered her she was sick and keeping her things in her purse or bag made her feel free, she is happier and her glucose levels are fine....I hope a real cure appears soon!,,


Add your comments about this article below. You can add comments as a registered user or anonymously. If you choose to post anonymously your comments will be sent to our moderator for approval before they appear on this page. If you choose to post as a registered user your comments will appear instantly.

When voicing your views via the comment feature, please respect the Diabetes Health community by refraining from comments that could be considered offensive to other people. Diabetes Health reserves the right to remove comments when necessary to maintain the cordial voice of the diabetes community.

For your privacy and protection, we ask that you do not include personal details such as address or telephone number in any comments posted.

Don't have your Diabetes Health Username? Register now and add your comments to all our content.

Have Your Say...


Username: Password:
Comment:
©1991-2014 Diabetes Health | Home | Privacy | Press | Advertising | Help | Contact Us | Donate | Sitemap

Diabetes Health Medical Disclaimer

The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. Opinions expressed here are the opinions of writers, contributors, and commentators, and are not necessarily those of Diabetes Health. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website.