Who knew wearing an insulin pump could get so much publicity?! During the recent Miss Idaho competition, one woman, Sierra Sandison, wore her insulin pump clipped to her bikini. It has received a ton of publicity from mainstream media and it has even become a hashtag (#showmeyourpump) on Twitter after Sierra encouraged other diabetics to show off their insulin pump.
I have worn an insulin pump almost continuously for 14 years. When I first started wearing a pump in 2000, I wore a pump from a company called Medtronic. The pump was a Minimed 508.
A couple years ago, I took a break for about a year and half before switching to a new brand of insulin pump. This brand of insulin pump makes it a little harder to see because I can wear it completely under my clothes. It’s called an Omnipod and there are no tubes because it sits directly on my skin. Sometimes you can see a little lump under my clothes, but most of the time you really have to be looking for it. Some people wear their pods more exposed, on their legs or their arms, and I tried that once but it didn’t feel as comfortable. So I choose to wear it on my lower back or stomach. I have to change the pod every 3 days. When I was on a tubed pump, I changed the set (the part in me) every 3 days.
I chose to wear an insulin pump because I feel that it helps me manage my blood sugars more precisely, especially when training for my half marathon. It took a long time to figure out exactly what my body needs, and I think that wearing an insulin pump helps me manage this the best. Plus, I absolutely detest taking injections! When I was on injections, I had to take a shot every time I wanted to eat something and I found that really annoying.
More and more people are hearing about insulin pumps, in part because of Sierra but also because insulin pumps are more and more commonly used to treat diabetes. But there are still a lot of misconceptions about what an insulin pump is and what it does.
Let’s take a little quiz to see how much you know about insulin pumps and diabetes —
True or False: Wearing a pump means your diabetes is bad.
Wearing an insulin pump does not mean someone’s diabetes is bad. Diabetes happens when the immune system destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, which makes it impossible for the body to properly regulate blood sugar. People with diabetes have to replace this insulin. You can do this via injections, an insulin pump, or (as of a few weeks ago) by inhaling insulin. You cannot digest insulin. Whether you take shots or wear a pump, you still need insulin. These are just different ways of getting it into your body.
True or False: An insulin pump does everything for you.
An insulin pump is only a tool to get the insulin into the body. An insulin pump doesn’t do any thinking. We do all the thinking! We determine how much insulin we need based on our current blood sugar level (so we still prick our fingers and /or wear a continuous glucose monitor), our activity level and what we are eating. Researchers are working on a way to make this automated, but it’s still being developed.
True or False: An insulin pump can give you more freedom and flexibility.
In the Dark Ages of Diabetes, people were on very strict meal plans. They had to eat the same amount of food no matter how hungry they were. Today, an insulin pump (as well as certain types of insulin that you can inject) allows people to choose what they want to eat. No longer must we cringe and cower in the face of cake, cookies and other deliciousness. We can eat that!
True or False: Everyone should be on an insulin pump!
While an insulin pump has some added benefits, such as being able to reduce or increase insulin intake if activity level suddenly changes, it isn’t for everyone. Some people are not comfortable wearing an external device while others find that the insulin pump doesn’t have any added benefits compared to taking injections. An insulin pump is not for everyone! There are several different ways to manage diabetes, and wearing an insulin pump is just one of them.
Hopefully this helped clear up some misconceptions that you might have about why people wear an insulin pump, or maybe why someone isn’t wearing an insulin pump. If you still have questions, send me an email or leave a comment. I’m happy to answer!