What are insulin pumps?

There are four components to an insulin pump: the pump itself, a reservoir, tubing, and an infusion set.

An insulin pump is a small, battery-powered computer that is about the size of a pager. It is worn clipped to a belt or waistband, or in a pouch or pocket. The pump holds a reservoir filled with rapid-acting insulin. The pump is programmed to give small continuous amounts of insulin from the reservoir through a small plastic tube connected to your body. At the end of the tubing is a small needle, which is used to insert the cannula (a small hollow tube) into the fatty tissue of the stomach or other area. The needle is then removed leaving the cannula behind, which is called the infusion set. Some pumps do not have a tube and the insulin is housed in a device worn on the body. The reservoir and infusion set are changed every 2-3 days. The pump can be disconnected from the infusion set for short periods for activities such as swimming, bathing, or exercise.

The insulin pump is not an “artificial pancreas” and is not automatic. You must program it to give insulin when you need it. Therapies such as multiple daily injections (MDI) and insulin pump therapy, formally known as continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion (CSII), keep blood sugars in a tighter range. Blood sugars must be monitored at least 4-7 times every day for pump therapy to be safe and effective. An insulin pump does not monitor your blood sugar levels.

Can I take both pills and insulin to control my blood sugar?

Yes. The combination of insulin and an oral medication, when taken as directed by your doctor, is very safe and effective in controlling blood sugar levels. A typical combination therapy consists of taking an oral medication during the day and insulin at night. Once you begin taking insulin, you will need to monitor your blood sugar more often to reduce the risk of hypoglycemia.

Combination therapies are often helpful for people who have type 2 diabetes. If you have been taking an oral medication, your doctor may change your treatment plan to include insulin injections. This change is often made to help people with type 2 diabetes gain better control of their blood sugar.

What are the symptoms of low blood sugar?

Most people have symptoms of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) when their blood sugar is less than 4.0 mmol/L. When your blood sugar is low, your body gives out signs that you need food. Different people have different symptoms. You will learn to know your symptoms. When you have a low blood sugar it is important to treat it properly immediately.

Early symptoms

You may:

  • Feel weak
  • Feel dizzy
  • Feel hungry
  • Tremble
  • Feel shaky
  • Feel sweaty or clammy
  • Have a pounding heart
  • Have pale skin
  • Feel frightened or anxious

Late symptoms

You may:

  • Feel confused
  • Have a headache
  • Feel cranky
  • Have poor coordination
  • Have bad dreams or nightmares
  • Be unable keep your mind on one subject
  • Feel a numbness in your mouth and tongue
  • Pass out

What are blood sugar levels in a person without diabetes?

Blood sugar levels in a person without diabetes are tightly controlled by the body. When operating normally the body keeps blood sugars between 4.4-6.1 mmol/L, shortly after a meal blood sugar levels may rise up to 7.8 mmol/L.

What should my blood sugar level be?

Ideal blood sugar ranges may be different for each person, your health care provider will tell you what range is good for you. However, as general goal before meals your blood sugar should be between 4.0-7.0 mmol/L, and two hours after a meal it should be between 5.0-10.0 mmol/L.

Can diabetes be cured?

No. A cure for diabetes has not yet been found. However, diabetes can be treated and controlled. Most people with diabetes manage their disease and lead normal lives. Without proper care, diabetes can lead to:

  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Eye damage and blindness
  • Gum disease
  • Serious infections in feet, sometimes requiring amputation
  • Damage to nerves, resulting in pain or loss of sensation

How can I know if I have diabetes?

Your health care provider can perform blood and urine tests to see if you have diabetes. Diabetes is diagnosed when two blood tests show that your fasting blood sugar level (blood sugar before you have eaten anything) is 7.0 mmol/L or greater.

Signs And Symptoms

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes are often severe and sudden.

These symptoms include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight loss (even though you are eating and feel hungry)
  • Weak, tired feeling
  • Blurred vision

Type 2 diabetes

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes often go unnoticed. These symptoms build up over time and include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Slow healing sores or cuts
  • Itchy skin (usually in the vaginal or groin area)
  • Yeast infections
  • Excessive thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Frequent urination

How is diabetes managed?

Diabetes is managed through proper diet, exercise and, if needed, medication. People with diabetes must use home and office tests to monitor the levels of sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides in their blood. Steps are then taken to keep the levels of these substances as normal as possible.

Type 1 diabetes is controlled with:

  • Insulin Injections
  • Meal planning
  • Exercise

Type 2 diabetes is controlled with:

  • Diet and exercise
  • Oral medications (pills)
  • Insulin Injections

What are the types of diabetes?

There are three main types of diabetes:

Type 1 Diabetes:

An autoimmune disease that occurs when the pancreas no longer produces any insulin or produces very little insulin. Type 1 diabetes usually develops in childhood or adolescence, however it can develop later in adulthood, and affects approximately 10% of people with diabetes. There is no cure. It is treated with lifelong insulin injections and careful attention to diet and physical activity. Formerly called insulin-dependent diabetes or juvenile diabetes.

Type 2 Diabetes:

A disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to meet the body’s needs and/or the body is unable to respond properly to the actions of insulin (insulin resistance). Type 2 diabetes usually occurs later in life (although it can occur in younger people) and affects approximately 90% of people with diabetes. There is no cure. It is treated with careful attention to diet and exercise and usually also diabetes pills (oral antihyperglycemic agents) and/or insulin. Formerly called non-insulin-dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes:

Diabetes that is first diagnosed or first develops during pregnancy. It affects 2% to 4% of all pregnancies. Blood glucose levels usually return to normal following delivery. Both mother and child are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

What causes diabetes?

Researchers do not yet know what causes diabetes. However, there are many identified risk factors that increase your chance of developing diabetes.

Am I at Risk?

What is diabetes?

A disease where the pancreas cannot produce a hormone called insulin, or cannot properly use the insulin it produces, or a combination of both. This causes the level of sugar in the blood to rise, which can damage organs, blood vessels, and nerves.

Is your question not answered here?

Ask your question!


Cleveland Clinic (2014). Diabetes: Frequently Asked Questions.