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Diabetes Health Center

Insulin Delivery Systems: An Overview

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Insulin Pump continued...

Better blood sugar control. The pump helps prevent blood sugar swings because it delivers insulin steadily.

Easy to monitor. Your pump can communicate with your glucose monitoring system so you can track your blood sugar over time and make changes to your routine as needed.

Cons:

Constant wear. "The disadvantage is that you are hooked to a device that your life is dependent on," Fonseca says. You're going to be attached to this pump nearly all of the time -- even when you sleep.

Risks. You need to be very careful about changing the needle every couple of days because there is a slight risk for infection.

You also have to monitor your blood sugar levels because you may be more likely to have a drop in blood sugar with the pump than with a syringe or pen.

If the catheter slips out or the pump fails, you might not get the insulin you need. Over time your blood sugar levels can increase, and you could develop a dangerous complication called diabetic ketoacidosis.

Cost. Pumps run about $5,000, plus you have to pay for the ongoing cost of supplies (such as batteries and sensors). That can add up over time.

Jet Injectors

Jet injectors don't have a needle. Instead, they use very high pressure to push a fine spray of insulin through the pores in your skin.

Pros:

Needle-free. If you hate needles, a jet injector is an alternative to the insulin syringe or pen.

Cons:

Pain. "They surprisingly may cause more pain than a needle in some people," Fonseca says. You have a high concentration of nerves close to the surface of your skin. Trying to push insulin through the skin can hurt more than injecting.

Uneven insulin delivery. Because they send insulin into the body through the pores, jet injectors may not always deliver an accurate dose.

Other options include an insulin patch. Work closely with your doctor to choose the option that best fits your budget, health needs, and lifestyle.

Inhaled Insulin

A rapid-acting inhaled insulin is also FDA-approved for use before meals. 

Pros:

Timing. The drug peaks in the blood in about 15-20 minutes, researchers say, and clears the body in 2-3 hours.

Needle-free. Users place a dose insulin, in powder form, into a small, whistle-sized inhaler. Doses come in a cartridge, and each cartridge contains a single dose.

Cons:

More insulin needed. Inhaled insulin can be used for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, however, it must be used in combination with long-acting insulin in patients with type 1 diabetes.

Risks.  Inhaled insulin should not be used by those who smoke or have chronic lung disease. 

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Reviewed on July 30, 2014

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