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How Do Insulin Pumps Work?


An insulin pump works a bit like a pancreas in that it releases small amounts of insulin all day long. Thisbasal dose of insulin helps keep your blood glucose steady between meals and while you sleep. You can adjust the basal rate according to the kinds of activities you plan to do that day. For example, if you’re playing sport, you can reduce your basal rate to help avoid your blood glucose going too low.


Then, at mealtimes, you tell the pump to release an extra bolus dose of insulin to match the amount of carbohydrate in your food. Simple!


Unlike needles, pumps use fast-acting insulin. This allows you to adjust your treatment on the go, according to the foods and activities you choose – not the other way around.


What's It Like to Wear a Pump?


One of the first questions people ask when considering a pump is, “What is it like having something attached to me all day long?” Many worry that daily activities, like sport, swimming and even sleeping, will be difficult with a pump.


The truth is, once you’re connected to a pump, you’ll barely notice it’s there. The MiniMed Paradigm™ Veo™ insulin pump is surprisingly small and discreet – in fact it’s no bigger than a standard mobile phone. Inside is a cartridge of fast-acting insulin and a mechanism that secretes precise amounts into the body through an infusion set  a thin tube that sits comfortably under the skin of the abdomen. If you’re playing sport or swimming, you can safely detach the pump and hook it up again when you’re done.


Five Good Reasons to Start Pumping



The  insulin pump can afford greater flexibility and blood glucose control, which multiple daily injections may not offer:

  • Fewer needles
  • Reduced risk of hypoglycaemia
  • Improved HbA1c
  • A more flexible lifestyle
  • Improved quality of life




What's it like to be attached to something all the time?
Like anything else that is new (wearing a wedding ring, breaking in a new pair of shoes, and carrying a purse), in the beginning, pump wearers notice the pump far more than they do after a month has gone by. There are times when being connected to an insulin pump is more cumbersome, such as when showering, getting dressed in the morning, or when trying on clothes. In order to make it easier for pump wearers to handle routine tasks, we have designed the Medtronic Quick Release™ mechanism, which allows pump wearers to quickly and easily detach from the pump for short periods of time.


How do I wear the pump? 
There are almost as many answers to that question as there are pump wearers! Because the pump is small, it is easy to conceal completely. You decide where you want to wear it; in a pocket, tucked into a bra or garter belt, or placed in a case that can be worn on a belt. Some people prefer to have their pump out where it’s easier to get to. This can be done with a simple belt clip available with the pump, similar to that used for pagers.


Where do I insert the infusion set?
The infusion set can be inserted in the subcutaneous tissue of the abdomen, thigh, or upper buttocks. Most people prefer the abdomen or upper buttocks because it has the most consistent rate of insulin absorption. You may want to experiment to find the most comfortable position. The important thing is to avoid inserting into bony areas, under belt lines or in other areas where clothing might cause irritation.


Can I feel the insertion site?
The insertion site should be completely comfortable. If you feel discomfort at the site, you should check it to see if it is red or irritated. Medtronic Diabetes infusion sets have removable introducer needles, and flexible microtubes that are left under the skin. The infusion sets and inserters allow for painless, comfortable insulin delivery even during vigorous activity and exercise.


Can I take a bath? 
Of course! It’s true that the pump is a fairly sensitive instrument and should be protected from being totally immersed in water for extended periods, but there are several easy ways to get around bathing or showering. All Medtronic Diabetes infusion sets can be easily disconnected from the cannula, or the pump can be placed in a ‘showerpak’ – a specially designed plastic bag that can be hung around the neck or on a tap handle during your shower. You can even put the pump on the floor during a bath, letting the tubing drape over the side of the tub.


So that means I can swim, too? 
Absolutely. For swimming, you simply disconnect from the pump temporarily.


What about other sports?
For more rugged sports like snowboarding, mountain biking, or jet skiing, it is best to use a Medtronic Diabetes sport case. For activities that involve a lot of vigorous contact (e.g. football, soccer, or hockey) disconnecting from the pump and tubing might be preferable.


What about intimacy? 
Most pump users are concerned about this initially, but find that it's not much of an issue as long as it's discussed openly with their partner. If you're both comfortable with the pump, just leave it in place. You may want to use the 110 cm tubing to allow you to place the pump well out of reach. Many people prefer to disconnect from the pump and tubing before intimate contact. With a simple twist, the pump and tubing can be detached so that pump therapy is not a part of intimate moments. In short, you can do anything with a pump that you could do on injections and, perhaps more importantly, just about anything you would choose to do if you didn't have diabetes.


Does the pump require any special care or maintenance? 
The Medtronic Diabetes pump is designed to be durable and maintenance-free. An alarm will sound approximately every one to three weeks to alert you that the batteries need to be changed – Medtronic Diabetes pumps require one alkaline AAA battery.


Most people keep their pumps in a specially designed case to minimise cosmetic damage caused by bumps, perspiration, dirt, and grime. To clean the pump, it should be washed with a damp cloth and mild soap. No other regular maintenance of the pump is required.


What happens if I drop my pump? 
Medtronic Diabetes pumps have been designed to withstand normal things that happen in life. No matter how careful you are, your pump can fall to the floor. If this happens, you will need to check the pump display and make sure the tubing and reservoir are intact, then, for the following 24 hours, monitor your pump to ensure it is responding to your button presses and displaying the correct information. Medtronic Diabetes pumps are water resistant, so don’t worry if you briefly drop it in water, or it’s splashed. If you have any concerns regarding the operation of your pump, please don’t hesitate to call the 24-hour helpline.


How do I know if my pump is working? 
Your Medtronic Diabetes pump has multiple built-in safety alarms to alert you if it stops delivering insulin, including alarms for low and depleted batteries, empty reservoirs, and clogged infusion sets. The pump has an infrared motion detector that checks to make sure the motor is working properly. A series of safety checks are performed every minute, every motor stroke, and upon each programming change.


What happens if my pump breaks? 
If you suspect something is wrong with your pump, you should call the Medtronic Diabetes 24-hour helpline.


ediabetesmellitus@gmail.com, ediabetesmellitus@rediffmail.com.