Type 1 Thursday – Injections vs Insulin Pump?
Today’s topic is MDI (multiple daily injections) vs insulin pump – which is better?
This comes after a question I got on an Instagram post, where I was asked if it’s necessary to use a pump as a Type 1 Diabetic?
My short answer is DEFINITELY NO! If you achieve great results and reach your goals, it doesn’t matter what kind of insulin delivery system you use. The main point is that you have normal, healthy, happy blood sugars.
Watch the video (or read the transcription below, if that’s more your thing) to find out my pros and cons of MDI and insulin pumps.
I want this to be a conversation starter, so why don’t you let me know YOUR pros and cons in a comment below? And, what do you use to deliver insulin? Let me know!
The age old question for most people living with insulin dependent diabetes, is the question I recently got on my Instagram post.
The question was about whether it is necessary to use an insulin pump, or if multiple daily injections, either though a pen or syringe is better for diabetic?
This is very difficult to answer straight off the bat, because this is a highly individual topic. In my opinion, the short answer is that it doesn’t really matter what you use to deliver the insulin, that you do need as a Type 1 Diabetic, as long as you do. If your diabetes is well managed with maybe a completely crazy version of either MDI or insulin pump or whatever, then hey, that’s fantastic. You found what works for you, and that is great.
Today, I wanted to have a conversation starter with you, which we can happily continue in the comments below. I wanted to outline my pros and cons for both MDI, which is multiple daily injections, you deliver your insulin by injecting yourself every so often with both basal and bolus insolence. And also pros and cons for the insulin pump that I’ve noticed for the past couple of years. Maybe this can help you make up your mind, maybe there you find out something that you want to try, and if you do, please let me know in a comment.
My own story in regards to my insulin delivery method has been a little bit jumpy. Well, I was actually flat out refusing to have an insulin pump for so many years. I had had diabetes for 27 years before I finally agreed with my diabetes nurse that now I was ready to try. And this despite health care professionals suggesting an insulin pump to me, for the majority of my upbringing, (well, maybe not in the 80s. They weren’t super common back then.) since they have become more common, they have been suggest to me every once in a while, and I’ve always refused. Because, and this was the biggest con for me the insulin pump back then, was that there’s something always attached to me. I was afraid that I would feel sicker than I have to be. And I was afraid that I’d be constantly reminded of that I am maybe not as chronically healthy as I would like myself to be or as other people may be. (I am, however, chronically awesome!)
So I was very, very hesitant and very afraid of getting myself my first insulin pump. I opted for a tubeless patch pump, which then changed into a tubed pump, about one and a half years ago, I took the step towards a tubed pump for a variety of reasons, which we can happily discuss, and maybe a little bit later. I’ve done multiple daily injections for a lot longer than I have lived with an insulin pump constantly attached to my body.
I wanted to outline few pros and cons of them each.
So let’s start with MDI, as that’s where I actually have most of my personal experience. I want to start with the pros. This is a biggie for me, and for very many other people who live with diabetes, the freedom factor you have with multiple daily injections. You don’t have anything attached to your body, unless you’re wearing a CGM, but they are a lot smaller and maybe you don’t want two things connected to your body at all times.
Hand with this goes also that it makes the illness more invisible. Because you don’t have a pager looking thing stuck to your hip or your clothes somewhere. It becomes a very much more visible illness to live with, with an insulin pump.
If you do multiple daily injections, you can also take a lot more different types of insulin, because different insulins act in differently during different times. For example, as Dr. Bernstein always recommends, is that you take regular insulin, or R insulin, to cover protein, and the protein spike that comes a few hours after you eat a lot of protein. This is easier to do if you are on MDI then having to remember to also have another shot when you’re on an insulin pump. You can also then take fast acting insulin, to which you have to correct high blood sugar or for covering for carbs. Finally, you can choose which long acting insulin that you combine this with in a way more flexible way. When it comes to types of insulin that you take, you can find a routine and a regime that works for you. And for your diabetes, to manage it properly.
MDI can also be seen as being a bit simpler, you take an injection and you’re done. Instead of having to care about every time you remove a piece of clothing or something that the tubing gets stuck or you snag the the infusion set… If you get the benefits and reach your goals with MDI, then why not stay with that?
I think it can also be argued that MDI is cheaper than being on the pump. With the pump comes very many things that you have to pay for, such as rent of the pump, for example. I have to pay rent every month for having my pump. All the supplies for it also cost a lot. It’s not just the insulin that costs! With MDI, either you use syringes that are reasonably cheap, or you have insulin pens that most people with diabetes actually get for free.
Also, from a very, from very superficial point of view, because sometimes you need to be that, too. On MDI, you can wear anything, and you won’t see any devices poking or sticking out, or being in the way, or there’s a seam or there’s something that is just obstructing either the pump or the tubing. With MDI, you are freer in that way too.
I would conclude that with the main point of the pros of MDI is freedom.
The cons of MDI! I find it in hindsight, it is quite inconvenient to be on MDI for myself. I can only speak for myself here! But every time I had to correct, every time it’s time for the the basal shot, I had to pull up my shirt, or pull down my pants… For me, it became quite inconvenient, because I had to inject myself about 10 times a day, before I swapped to the pump. That was a big sales argument for me, to be honest, not having to pierce myself with a needle 10 times a day, only do it once every three days, that sounded like heaven! That’s why I went for it, actually. You also have to remember to take your basal insulin at the right time. It became a huge effort for me to try to remember when and how and how much, which dose at this time of day…
What else I see as a con for MDI, in my opinion, is that you have a lot more to carry along with you when you leave the house. An insulin pump is always on you. So that’s it for the insulin thing. Then you need a blood sugar meter, maybe some glucose tabs and that’s fine. That’s a lot easier to carry then two types of pens and the pen needles and blah, blah, blah, for me it becomes a lot more carrying along. That being said, for most people is not a problem.
Another, slightly inconvenient part of MDI, is that you have to expose body parts. Usually this is not a problem at all, whether you’re female, male, whatever. But – imagine what is it really, really cold, and you have to like take up your shirt, and you feel that icy wind against your skin. Then you also have to inject yourself. I don’t miss that at all. I really do enjoy the fact that for example, if I am out and about around town or something, I can just take up my insulin pump, I can look like I’m texting (or whatever ignorant people choose to believe). That’s how easily I’ve saved my life with more insulin if that’s what I need, or turned down the basal if that’s what I need. But it becomes a little bit inconvenient for me to expose body parts here and there, especially when I’m out and about.
The importance of rotating sites becomes very, very big on MDI, because we all have those favorite spots that we like to inject ourselves in. And that’s fine. But you do have to rotate your sites! I noticed for myself, that it is a lot easier for me to rotate pump sites than it was to rotate injection sites. It even got so bad that no one could touch my upper thighs for a while because I had just injected so much long acting insulin into them.
For the MDI cons, in conclusion, inconvenient to me.
Let’s move over to the pros of the insulin pump. So the absolute highlight for being on an insulin pump for me is that it is very, very flexible. I can be very flexible with my basal rate, for example. If I notice that I’m trending upwards, I can change it, I can add on a bit of temporary basal to see if that’s the problem. And also with the bolus, you have the different bolus profiles. Instead of, as I was talking about in MDI, you can use different insulins for this, you use the same insulin the whole time, just in different profiles, so to speak. For me, it’s a lot easier to just remember that I have one tool to work with and I can do different things with this same one thing.
My second favorite pump benefit, it is micro-bolusing. I can take bolus’ in the size of 0.1 unit, for example. If I really want to, I can do a 0.05 bolus on some pumps, making it much more precise. This is not possible on MDI, because there you have the minimum is half a unit. So it depends a little bit on how tight you want to steer your diabetes ship. I really like the fact that I can really micro manage my blood sugars, to a certain extent, not overly so of course, because that becomes ridiculous on all other levels. But it is very nice that I can do a micro bolus every now and then. When I see the CGM trending up, I’m like, oh, let’s try with 0.X units and see if it comes a little bit down. If not, then I have to redo and recalculate. But it is a good check for me to see what’s wrong.
As I mentioned before, it is very easy to handle when you are on the go. You can even take care of your health and blood sugar during a business meeting (I have done that many times before), and when you’re out with friends, if you are in a busy street. Or imagine, for example, it’s rush hour at the farmers market and you feel or you get a notification for your CGM that your blood sugar is a little bit high, you would like to correct but you can’t really find a quiet corner. With an insulin pump, it’s a lot easier because you just click a few buttons and you’re done. You’ve taken care of the situation and you can move on with your day.
To a certain extent, I also find that it’s more efficient for me to treat and manage my diabetes with an insulin pump. I don’t use nearly half of the insulin as I do before. I also don’t spend as much time managing my diabetes as I did with MDI. Also, of course, if you are a data nerd, you have a lot of data to take care of and see and have insights and analyze and see trends. And the ever so important tech integration, more and more pumps now do integrate with a CGM, so that you can get both things at in the same device. And also, the looping possibilities that are coming up now that are very, very exciting to everyone who lives with diabetes.
The cons of insulin pumps (yes, yes, they are. There are cons with these ones too, it’s not all just roses and happy flower dances.)
I already mentioned one of them, which is that this is something that you always have attached to your body. And that can be very draining, both emotionally and physically and mentally, for some. It’s not always easy to always be connected in that way.
The tubing does, if you have a tubed pump, get caught on stuff like door handles, and other things, clothing, everything. It’s not really the most maybe smooth thing in the world to live with, you do have to watch out and make sure that your tubing is inside of your clothing, preferably, so that you don’t snag it somewhere.
I find that using an insulin pump produces a lot more trash than MDI. I’m not really happy about that, but as it is a lot easier for me to manage my diabetes with the help of an insulin pump, I keep with it, and I hope that the insulin pump provider companies will at some point really reconsider their recycling policies, so that you can maybe even send that stuff back so that they can take care of it. And not to mention Dexcom, please get your act together! But that’s another video. 😉
One problem with insulin pumps is that if it for some reason, malfunctions, and that can be the site malfunctions, the battery runs out, or the insulin goes bad or the machine get some sort of hiccup. If it somehow malfunctions, you don’t get any insulin at all and that can become dangerous quite quickly. That is one of the bigger cons for an insulin pump.
For me, airport security, or generally when you travel, insulin pumps can sometimes get a little bit interesting. They will want to swipe them for explosives. For certain airports, I do have to take more time into consideration when I travel through there because they just don’t know really what it is yet. It is unfortunately becoming more and more common, meaning it is less of a problem. But sometimes I could happily maybe be on MDI for a trip!
What do you have to add in terms of pros and cons for MDI and pros and cons for insulin pump? What do you use it to deliver insulin?
Please let me know in a comment below. I will be happy to chat with you there.
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