Pump it up

Insulin pumps may be an alternative to injections for some people with Type 1 diabetes. A pump is a small device, about the size of a small mobile phone. It delivers a steady flow of short-acting insulin around the clock.

The insulin is sent through a fine plastic tube that runs from the pump to a cannula (a very thin and flexible plastic tube) inserted just under the skin.

When you're eating you can give yourself extra insulin (known as a bolus dose).

If you use a pump, a dietitian will teach you how to work out the carbohydrate content of your food so that you're able to give the appropriate bolus dose. You can also give yourself a bolus dose if your blood glucose levels are high.

Pumps – the good news

There are lots of advantages to using a pump...

  • Fewer injections – the cannula (tube) is only replaced two to three times a week.
  • Your lifestyle can be more flexible – you don't have to plan so carefully or eat at set times.
  • You may be able to reduce your total dose of insulin as your diabetes control improves.
  • It's easy to use – once the pump is set up, you can give yourself a bolus dose at the push of a button.

Pumps – the bad news

... but there are some disadvantages to pump use too.

  • You need to test your blood glucose levels more often – because the insulin is rapid acting, so it's important you always know what your insulin needs are.
  • You may forget your bolus doses – this is usually just a problem while you get used to everything.
  • Infection may develop at the insertion site where the tube enters your skin.
  • You may get scarring at the insertion site, which will mean changing the infusion set (the equipment) more often.

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Your comments

"i am now 13 and i got diagnosed with it when i was 9 i used to do 2 injections a day with an insulin pen now i do 4 and i feel a lot better because it stops me eating lots of sweet things because of the fact i would have to inject again and that would make my legs worse than ever they are completely bruised at the top and when i inject in my belly it gives me spots,rashes and bruises i never knew there was pumps as well!" – Isabella

"After having lots of highs and lows I had a 4 day blood sugar monitor on and it showed how horrific my control was including hypos whilst asleep. I can carb count well so knew it wasn't dish to that, however I was told by my consultant that it wouldn't work for me yet my dietician disagreed, within a week my funding has been approved. Can't wait to get it fitted :)" – Natalie

"My son is 21 and has had diabetes since he was14. He has never coped with it very well. I have tried to get him a pump for a long time but without sucsess. I was told it was only for people who are high all the time not having lows. I am worried when he goes to university in September, as he has been having a lot of hypos lately." – Lesley

"I was diagnosed when I was really young and im starting to switch over onto a pump Im just graduating from uni and going to work in schools so I find the pump a much more convenient option." – Lauren

"I was diagnossed with diabetes at a young age. It was tough but I'm still getting through it. I feel like it would be esasier if I went off of the jags and on the pump. I'm just worried I go to busy places so I'm worried if someone would brush against the pump and it would hurt xx" – Orlagh

"I was put straight onto a pump when I was diagnosed because my hospital was taking part in a trial to see whether you get better blood control on a pump or injections. I can't compare them because I was only on injections for 9 days but my HbA1c has been 6.1 every time I've been to my clinic and I'm sure it would be much worse If I was on injections. Go for it! It's so easy to use and there's a really good website where you can get pump pouches that are really good." – Grace

"I am not sure wether to go for the pump or not, was wondering if anyone had any advice, i am at college going to university in about a year. My doctors have said it would be a good idea for the whole social aspect of uni as my blood glucose is stable apart from i get a lot of hypos. Was wondering if anyone would consider this as a good idea for me and wether i should go for it? the only thing I am unsure about is the fact its visible unlike injections where you do it once and theres no trace although they are constant ahhhh help! :) xx" – Bethany

"I have written to My Life before saying how my blood results are not under control. I was very depressed and sad that they were not right so when I was told that I was getting the pump in three weeks time I was ecstatic!!!

Although I have been to a pump demonstration, I would like to know any views and opinions on the pump from a diabetic, so that I would feel more comfortable using it. I am still quite nervous about having to sleep with it because surely it is really uncomfortable? Do you suggest any ways that I could cover it up to make it easier for me to sleep with it during the night?

However, I have wanted the pump for 4 years now and finally the doctors have put a date in the diary! Getting the pump will mean no more injections, and as my GCSEs are coming up, it means no more extreme reactions to stress such as having a hypo during the night. Thank You." – Charlotte

"i want the pump caseu my needles hurt me but my mum thinks its a bad idea but what i want to no its how do u sleep with it and can u puty ur trosers up over it???" – Edie-Mea

"i was diagnosed with type 1 in january 2012 just a few months ago im only 14 but ive already come out of my honeymoon phase and my blood sugars are always high just a week ago i would have shot someone down in flames if they suggested a pump to me but i've seen some other kids with them and now i think there brilliant and i've even seen some that are wireless but my diabetes nurse said i have to be on a basal bolus regimen for 3 months before i can get one and i thought ok that's fair enough until she told me i maybe cant get on the basal bolus regimen for another year and even then i have to go on the bottom of the waiting list for a pump and that's about 4 years long" – Georgina

"I'm 19 years old I've had diabetes since I was 11. My control was terrible when I started university but before that it's always been really good. Having been at uni for about 7 months now my control is alot better, but only because I'm always checking my blood sugars and correcting and injecting. If I don't then I lose control completely.

I really want a pump and I do alot of exercise, which means I always go low every time I do certain exercises. It's really disruptive and a bit counter-productive, eating when working out.

I've asked for a pump several times but I'm always refused because my control isn't bad enough. I'm tempted to just lost control completely in order to get one but I won't. It's just that I can only keep such good control by taking my sugars about 8 times a day and it's really interfering with my exercise alot and I think a pump would help! Any advice? All my doctors are refusing me! It seems really unfair! " – Ellie

"Hello, my Mum has got the pump and she thinks it is fantastic! she would never go back to injections again. She has had her pump 4 years, and it has just started to age, the rubber on the outside has started to come off, and twice now the buttons have been sticking. She rang her diabetic nurse and she just told her to ring Accu Check to ask for a new one. We didnt think she would just get a new one straight away. The women was fine on the phone and said that is fine. She is getting one despatched on monday. Fabulous people! My mum hardly has any hypos or anything now. Would advise it for anyone. :-) Thank you, x" – Emily

"Hello, I am Sarah and I am 11 years old, I was diagnosed about 8 months ago now and I am unsure about to things:
A) Is it to early to think about getting a pump?
B) Does a pump affect your life just as much although injections are made simpeler?

Thank you x " – Sarah

Hi Sarah; it's never too early to consider a pump: some hospitals put people on a pump as soon as they are diagnosed with diabetes!

Having a pump isn't for everyone: some people even prefer having injections! The idea behind a pump is to have better control, which means things like highs and lows shouldn't happen as often. However, you still have to manage your levels, just as you do with injections. So, you'll still need to test a lot, as well as carb counting and give insulin doses via the pump at mealtimes.

The best thing to do is let your diabetes nurse know you are interested in a pump and get a little more information first. You can then decide together with your parents/carers whether you think a pump is how you would like to treat your diabetes. Good luck! – My Life

"I had diabetes for a year now and i am on injections. i really wanna go on pumps but my doctor hasnt mentioned it before and will he say no if i ask for one? my bg has been all over the place and sometimes i dont test or inject. i think a pump would suite me. do you agre?" – Hind

"Hi, i was diagnosed about six months ago. i found it really weird how quickly i picked up things like carb counting. When i was in hospital learning about how to deal with it, it was such an overload of information that i never thought i would understand. But for anyone who is newly diagnosed, it's gets so much easier cause you have to practise it everyday, so you get better and better.

But anyone who is on an insulin pump, i just got funding for one, i've heard it makes such a difference and i've had loads of situations that it would have been useful. I'm just scared that it could rip out, and how you would sleep on it??? xxx" – Helen

"I got the pump in November 2009. So far my HBA1c has come down since then. It has been a great help because I have just started S1 this year and I have the freedom to do much more. It is a wee bit scary to start with but you get the hang of it in the end. Hope this helps :):):)"– Emily

"I'm going to a meeting about insulin pumps this month, as my Hba1c is really high and i have trouble controling it. my nurse says it woud be the best idea for me, and that insulin pumps are better for people who have high blood sugars and experience hypo's during the night, which i do.

are insulin pumps a good idea for teenagers? i have a pretty active lifestyle, and i dont want it to get in the way of my life."– Kerry

"i have had diabetes since february 2006 and i really want to go on a pump because my diabetes is all over the place my nurse have never mentioned it to me but i saw it on tv but i asked her 2 years ago and she said that i must get my hb1c under 9 but mine is at 11.4 i think its good because before it was about 16" – Angham

"I've been a diabetic for 10 years, since I was 14. It shook me up at first, but then it became part of my life really. I got very comfortable with it, though that I could get away with more than I could really. In my teens I started "rebelling against my disease", didn't take care of myself, didn't bother turning up for diabetic check-ups etc. I was hospitalized twice, and regularly had HbA1c reading of 15+.

In the past two years I've started thinking about things a bit more, I've come to the realization that I'm slowly killing myself. The biggest punch was when I did not get a job as a police officer (my lifelong ambition) due to my poor diabetes control.

I now see the diabetic team at Hillingdon Hospital regularly, and I'm (apparently) a prime candidate (and being tested for) the insulin "pump". I'm very keen to get started, even though I know it will involve a lot more testing etc. (something I've been disciplining myself to do the past 2 years), and I really hope this would help me stabilize my diabetes control - who knows, I might even become a police officer after all!" – Ignus

"i have heard about insulin pumps before and my mum is trying to make me get one but i really dont want one because im into fashion and clothes, and im scared that when wear one it might show up under one of my tops or it might look goofy when i sunbathe. they sound good but i really like choosing outfits and clothes so i dont want to be restricked to baggy tops :( x does the pump show up on your chlothes??" – Sarah

"I have been diabetic for years now. I'm 13 and although I have a good HbA1c at about 7.5, But my actual numbers are rubbish. I wake up every morning on a hypo, I am about 17.0 before dinner and wake up during the night with hypos alot. I don't self inject. So their saying if I start self injecting I won't need a pump. I have tried to get a pump for the past 2 years. Finally now that they see that even with all their help my diabetes isn't under control, they're going to see about getting one. I check my blood about 8 times a day anyway and can no longer do P.E as it somehow sends me high. I'm hoping getting the pump will sort that out. I can't wait xD xx" – Sophie

"Hi, I have been diabetic for almost 5 years now. I am away to be 13. I have been on the insulin pump for about 2 years. I was reading this page and for people who haven't tried it yet it's sooo much better than injecting. I mean i know for anyone who has diabetes they go on injections at first but its great! I go to drama classes and i am preforming a show tomorow night in Arbroath. i did dancing before i was on the insulin pump and it was quite annoying havin to go and inject if my bloods wre high. But now i'm on the pump i can just do it automatically.

My friend is diabetic too and he is 17. He asked me if i was on the pump and he excpected that it would be just the same as the injections.

But for all those people still on injections, I ensure you, the pump is way better!

You get funky design stickers too, but you actually have to change it every 2 - 3 days.

Thankss x" – Taylor

"Hi, I have been on a Insulin pump sice about the end of september. It is not easy at first with all the extra blood tests ect but once it is set up its been alot easier than injecting !!

I have been on Holiday with my pump when it was fairly new which was an experiance...
because you need to take it off when you go in the pool, then heve to cheack you blood every hour. It was abit anoying but at dinner when you wear a dress its easier than injecting because i could use the remote and i does it automatically. Its abit of a pain because it has to be kept on all night, but you soon get used to it.]

I had to wait 2 years for mine and i am the first (along with another girl) in my area to get one ! I definatly prefer to it to having to inject especially when you are out shopping with your mates and you don't have to get everything out in the middle of a cafe or on a bench when you are having lunch. The only thing i would be careful of is choosing which colour you are going to have !! =)" – Ella

"i've been on a pump for a month now, and we're still trying to get things in order - its no holiday let me tell you. i had to wait two years for a pump so some of you could consider yourself lucky. i had to go through carbohydrate counting training and then pump training. i think its much easier than the injections. but either way, pump or injections i think that carbohydrate counting helps more. inquire about that before you inquire about a pump because you can't get a pump without it. but im sure things will work out fine, and to be honest, i'm happy with it - i really am (:" – Holly

"I have had diabetes for 2 years now and on the 26th October I started on the pump. I really enjoy been on the pump. I hate it when I get air bubbles! It so annoying. Anyway I really enjoy it but I don't like having Diabetes. Hope everyone is ok with their Diabetes. Have a good a christmas and Happy New Year!!" – Caitlin

"Ive been diabetic about 3 years now but my blood sugar has been all over the place. sometimes it seems like everythings going well for a while, but then it all just falls apart and goes back to how it was. every so often i get really upset, thinking about all the long-term health problems im going to give myself, and decide to get it sorted out. never seems to happen though. its not that i dont try – i do – but i just dont seem to get anywhere with it.

a few months ago, my diabetic nurse, Sarah, started talking about these pumps. it took me a while to come round to the idea, but now i cant wait to get hold of one! if everything goes according to plan, i might be getting one in the next month or two. its really interesting to read about other peoples experiences with them. most people seem to love them.

the thing i miss most from before i had diabetes was the freedom. from the sounds of it, maybe this pump can give some back =)
xxxx" – Maddy

"My mum new about pumps from when i was diagnosed in 2002 but the doctor didn't like them then she struggled for years and then last year he went on a course and changed his mind about his opinion on them which was a plus side and last year i was told to go and see if i met the guide lines which i easily did and they then sent off to my health board although they don't have a maximum number per year like other counties i was lucky to get mine in october last year now that i have one my HbA1c has come down from 9 - 4 which is reali good i recomend a pump for anyone struggling with control although it is not for everyone some people dont like the fact it is stuck to you 24/7 but personally i like it as i can't forget anything!!!" – Chloe

"I've been a diabetic for 15 years. I used to inject 5 times a day. My levels were all over the place so the nurse asked me if I'd like to go on the pump. I was really scared at first, thinking "Where do I keep it? Will people look at me?". I've had it for 3 months now and I love it. It's a piece of my life and I couldn't live without it. I don't even know that I am wearing it." – Linsey

"I have had diabetes for nearly two years now, and most of that time I have struggled with my blood sugar control. Admittedly, it was originally my own fault, but now I am injecting every time I should be. I do correction doses and my HbA1c is still high. The nurses know that I am eligible for a pump, but I can't get one until April unless I move up to the adults' clinic which I think is unfair and there should be more staff available." – Caitlin

"I've had diabetes since I was four and I'm eleven now. I'm scared of having a pump because it sounds kinda' weird having a needle in me 24 hours a day. I can be great with the injections; normally it doesn't hurt. So I don't know what to do now." – Hamish

"My name's Nicole. I'm 14. I've had diabetes for a year and have found it very hard. I found it quite easy at first and now I've started to struggle but I've been given the opportunity to be put on the insulin pump list so if I get my blood sugars and HbA1c down, I will get it – so that is what's keeping me motivated. x" – Nicole

"I am hopefully going to apply for one. The only thing is, I don't do my blood sugars often and I have to go from doing it 2-3 times a week to 4-6 times a day! It has been really hard and I soo hope I am going to be able to get one but if I don't I am going to be really upset. Wish me luck. I am going in on the 9 November. Fingers Crossed. :)" – Megan

"I am finally gettin' an insulin pump on October 26th. Can't wait!!" – Michelle

"I have had diabetes since I was four years old and am almost 16. Sometimes I find it really hard especially in school. I find it easier on the injections because if you are not well you don't have to do your jab if your blood's low but if you're on the pump then it does it automatically. The younger you are, the better you are at using injections, and you should wait untill you're older to use pumps. I have done 11 years of school with diabetes and I coped fine without the pump. Don't rush into getting it, it's not woth the extra hassle." – Michelle

"Hey, my name is Lauren and I have had diabetes since May 2005. I am now 13. I used to be ashamed of my diabetes and at one point I got bullied for being the one who wasn't normal, so i asked my doctor if I could get the insulin pump and he advised me that although it sounds much easier than injecting four times a day, it can be a struggle at times and you have to check your blood around 6 or 8 times a day or even more. So to go onto the pump you really have to be committed! I think the pumps are an amazing invention and I'm counting downt he days 'til I get mine :D"– Lauren

"Every time I ask for a pump all I get told is they can't fund it." – Sean

"I have had diabetes for two years now and the nurses have being saying you will be on a pump by Christmas (this was like July 2008) and I still do not have one. I went on a diabetes camp and I met a girl and she got diabetes in March 2008 and she is already on a insulin pump. I am really not happy." – Caitlin

"I have been diabetic for almost four years now and hate doing injections so I think that pumps are really good!" – Rachel

"I think that it is a really good idea and helps to control your diabetes." – Cliona

"I have had a rubbish HbA1c level, even though I have taken loads of corrections. My family and I have been really determined to get my blood glucose down. I am getting a pump in a couple of weeks. My GP allowed me to get one without much trouble at all. I am not looking forward to sleeping with it in though!" – Eliot

"I have the 'basal bolus' regime and I'm beginning to get loads of bruises on my injection sites, so we asked for the insulin pump (which I think is really cool) and have been put on a list to get it. Hopefully I'll get by Easter!" – Aimee

"I have an insulin pump. I asked my consultant about it and they set me up with one. I only had too wait for like 3 months then I got one. My life's been so much better now that I have an insulin pump. Just ask your consultant and maybe they can set you one up like mine did for me." – Gemma