The insulin pump versus the syringe; weighing the pros and cons.

       About half of my diabetic life has been spent on the pump and the other half using insulin shots. I started out on shots, then spent 7 years on the pump and have now spent over a year back on shot therapy. There are a few things I miss about the pump but, my A1c is better using shots and therefore I’ll continue using them instead. No matter what your case is, let me share why I believe I will never use the pump again.

With the pump, I gained a lot of freedom and convenience. So much I was tempted to become “trigger happy” and give insulin anytime I wanted to eat something just because I could. Well, often, we over or underdose our insulin needs and when this happens, blood sugars become out of control. This happened to me and I gained about 40 pounds on the pump. My A1c was around a 7 or 8 which isn’t extremely awful, but we know it isn’t good enough.

The pump also complicated matters for me due to its components. With shot therapy, you have a syringe and a bottle of insulin and you know exactly how much insulin you are injecting. Unless you rotate religiously, insulin pump sites create a lot of scar tissue which over time can cause difficulties, pain, and bleeding when inserting or removing a site. The tubing can have air bubbles in it, meaning some insulin may not reach you like you think, causing an unexpected high glucose reading. The pump itself has many safety checks, but it is STILL a machine which can err. After a few years on the pump I became paranoid that something wrong would happen to the pump or the tubing or with my site (because things DID go wrong) and I would distrust the machine and often give too much insulin “just incase”.

So about a year ago I got off of the rollercoaster. I was scared to do this thinking about the freedom I would sacrifice. I first bought a gorgeous orange leather clutch with 2 zipper pockets to fashionably store syringes and bottle of humulog in. When I pull this out in public people have no clue what I’m doing.

I also began taking 20 units of lantus insulin every morning. I don’t like giving shots (who does?) so I only gave a shot when I needed it or before meals. I gave a shot to cover only those snacks I deemed worthy of giving an extra shot for. I ended up losing weight and getting better glucose readings.

Often for lunch, I’ll have a salad and some nuts or chicken. Before I begin eating I give a tiny shot of about 1 or 2 units (depending on what is in the salad) and then I eat and relish the fact that I’m not connected to a tiny machine which is unpleasant and time consuming to connect every other day, isn’t waterproof, and often gets in my way when I’m doing an activity. And because I didn’t give much insulin and kept my carbs low, I almost always maintain perfect glucose after a meal-meaning I stay feeling good and my mood doesn’t plummet.

Sometimes, as with jewelry, its true ladies, less IS more. So if you are on the pump and your control could be improved, I urge you to try using shots, especially if my experience sounds familiar to you and you eat too much and too easily because of those convenient little buttons.

If you have great control on the pump and love using it-awesome! I commend you and urge you to continue exactly what you are doing.

2 thoughts on “The insulin pump versus the syringe; weighing the pros and cons.

  1. Esther

    Thank you for writing on your experience. I have been on insulin therapy for over 13 years, 9 of those with an insulin pump. I have been having difficulty controlling my A1c within the last 2 years. It has been on an upward swing. I can relate to being “trigger happy” as you mentioned. After reading your post, I have decided to discuss switching back to syringes with my endocrinologist.

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