Convenient Care: The Insulin Pump
Insulin pumps deliver a steady stream of insulin, which most closely mimics a natural state, experts say.
You're Never Too Young...
Yet with the right supervision and support from dedicated
caregivers, even infants or toddlers with type 1 diabetes can benefit from the
use of insulin pumps, Freemark tells WebMD.
"If you have a very conscientious, careful, reliable family
who's willing to monitor the use of the pump closely, I think in many ways that
pump therapy is more effective in very young children than it is in teenagers
who are out on their own and entirely responsible for their care independent of
their parents," he says.
Freemark and colleagues performed a small pilot study of
insulin pumps in young children, and found that the pumps reduced the number of
episodes of severe hypoglycemia (abnormally low blood sugar) by a factor of
five compared with insulin injections. The parents, when interviewed by the
researchers, expressed greater confidence in their ability to manage their
children's diabetes and a general improvement in the family's quality of
Insulin pumps may be particularly beneficial for children
because their unpredictable food intake and energy expenditure make it
difficult for parents to judge how much insulin they should give by injection
ahead of time. In addition, because their small bodies require only fractions
of adult insulin doses, "it's almost impossible to do it accurately through
injections. I would venture to say that it isn't possible to administer quarter
of half units of insulin accurately by insulin syringes," Freemark
Insulin pumps also are far less likely to cause episodes of
severe hypoglycemia because they release insulin in a steady dose rather than
in a major bolus, he adds.
"To my amazement, we have had no trouble with the children
themselves," Freemark tells WebMD." We haven't limited their activities
and they still do somersaults on the ground and wrestle with their brothers and
sisters, but we haven't had the problem I was most worried about when we
started, which was that the kid was going to pull the pump out, and play with
it, and push the buttons - we've had none of that."
...Or Too Old
On the other end of the spectrum, many seniors with type 1
diabetes can also benefit from the use of an insulin pump. According to an
American Diabetes Association publication, many seniors who use the pump report
better control of complications, improved vision, better sleep, and relief from
anxiety about hypoglycemia.
Insulin pumps cost several thousand dollars, but Medicare now
covers the cost of pumps for many seniors, and other insurance plans also pick
up some or all of the cost for their patients with diabetes, Freemark