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.

In most pumps, 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. But some pumps sit directly on your skin, they are called 'patch pumps'.

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

If you use a pump, your dietitian or nurse 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 days.
  • 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 by pressing a combination of buttons.

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. 
  • You have to be attached to it 24 hours a day – you can only disconnect it for short periods. 
  • If there was any interruption in the insulin supply, your blood glucose level would rise very quickly. 
  • 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