Pumps vs Injections: Which Is Best?

Diabetics require insulin to help maintain balanced blood sugar levels. The two methods of getting insulin are either through pumps or injections. Pumps carry convenience, but injections can be more cost-effective. Physicians can help patients determine the best method for individual circumstances.

Center for Family Medicine Diabetes Care Benefits of Insulin Pump vs Injections

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition that affects how the body uses blood sugar or glucose. Someone who is diabetic cannot produce enough insulin to balance blood sugar levels. Glucose comes from food and is the main source of fuel for cells and the brain. Insulin, produced in the pancreas, helps the blood sugar get into the cells. Long-term complications of high blood sugar include cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, and hearing or vision impairment.

Types of diabetes

While all forms of diabetes interfere with blood sugar regulation, there are some variations between the types. There are 4 main types of diabetes.

  • Type 1: In this type, the body produces no insulin.
  • Type 2: In this type, the body is insulin-resistant or produces too little insulin.
  • Gestational diabetes: This is acquired during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes can go away but return with subsequent pregnancies.
  • Prediabetes: In this stage, blood glucose levels are high but have not developed into type 2 diabetes yet.

Insulin pumps

Depending on the individual needs, rapid-acting, intermediate, or long-lasting insulin is available. In addition to medication, treatment for diabetes will involve either a pump or injections. Insulin pumps come in two pain forms: wired and tubeless. Wired pumps are small and worn outside of the body. The pumps contain a reservoir of insulin. A catheter is inserted under the skin of the abdomen and connected, by wire, back to the pump. Tubeless pumps are smaller than wired pumps and can be worn on any part of the body. A small tube/needle is inserted under the skin and connects directly to the reservoir. The pumps can be programmed to dispense specific amounts of insulin when blood sugar levels reach a certain level.

Insulin pump benefits

Insulin pumps are more expensive, but also more accurate and precise. The pumps deliver a constant flow of insulin throughout the day, allowing for a more flexible lifestyle. There are fewer needle pricks with insulin pumps.

Insulin injections

Injections can be done with individual needles or insulin pens. Insulin pens dispense pre-measured amounts of insulin into the body. With needles, the patient must carefully measure, draw, and inject the insulin.

Insulin injection benefits

Injections are cheaper and take less training to use than insulin pumps. A patient will have to test blood sugar levels before every injection. There is the possibility a patient can develop resistant areas if injections are done too frequently in the same spot.

How to choose

Diabetic care is a balance of preference and need. Some patients prefer the convenience of the pump. Other patients prefer the cheaper cost of injections. Each method has pros and cons, but the overall benefit of insulin regulation remains the same. Patients can consult with a healthcare provider for help determining which method is the right treatment option on an individual basis.