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The Insulin Pump

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An insulin pump is one invention that has made many people’s lives easier, including mine. I have had diabetes since I was 10 and I have experimented with every way of giving insulin, from tiny syringes to huge pen-like needles meant to store insulin throughout the day. So far, I have to say that the insulin pump has been the easiest to live with. To further explain why it has made my life easier, I must first explain a little about diabetes, what an insulin pump is, and a little about its history.
Diabetes is a disease where the pancreas stops producing insulin, a hormone. Insulin is used to break down the sugar you intake when you eat. In people without diabetes, the pancreas is constantly producing insulin to cover your food intake. With diabetes, your pancreas does not do this, which is why diabetics give themselves insulin shots. There are two main types of insulin, long acting (slowly being used up over a long period of time) and short acting (used mainly to cover your food for the next meal). When you first get diabetes, you usually start out giving shots for at least the first year so that you can get sued to the disease.

An insulin pump is used instead of shots for diabetics. It is used more commonly with Type 1 diabetes, but recently more Type 2 diabetics have begun to use one. It is a small device, not much bigger than a cell phone, which basically contains the diabetic’s whole life. It contains how much insulin you need, how much you’ve already received, and how much you are going to get. It also contains the carbohydrate value of many foods that you can use for reference. And that’s just scratching the surface of the information that little box holds. It also contains a cartridge of insulin which should be changed anywhere from 1 ½ to 3 days. This is connected to a tube that leads up to a little ‘site’ on your arm. A site is a little plastic object which is attached to your arm by a needle. The needle is then taken out, and a small ¾ inch tube remains. This site normally is changed every 3 days. This is a lot better than a shot because you only have to stick a needle in yourself every 3 days instead of every 3 hours or so. Also, with shots you have to carry around a bunch of syringes, some insulin, alcohol swabs, etc. With a pump, all you have to carry around is the pump (which fits in your pocket).

The very first insulin pump was introduced in the early 60’s by a doctor in Los Angeles. It was so big that it was worn on the back as a backpack! In the early 70’s a man by the name of Dean Kamen invented a smaller, more wearable one. It wasn’t until the 90’s that doctors even began to suggest insulin pumps to their patients because they were so unreliable. They really didn’t improve diabetic’s conditions very much at that time, and it was a lot easier just to give regular shots. The future for insulin pumps is very promising. Right now they are working on a pump that is surgically inserted and will be controlled via radio frequency.

Even though there is not yet a cure to diabetes, my life is almost normal with an insulin pump. It has made my life much more free. I don’t have to worry about when I eat, or how much I can eat, or when I have to give my next shot anymore. I can hang out with my friends and not have my mom calling me every hour to check whether I gave my shot or not. This has also improved my health by keeping my blood sugar in check. With a pump, I feel like a regular teenager!

Learn the Facts About Diabetes. 2008. 2 December 2008 <http://www.facts-about-diabetes.com/the-history-of-the-insulin-pump.html>.





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