Multiple Daily Injections Versus Insulin Pumps: Which Is the Best Choice?
Disclaimer: there is no single method or regimen that is better than the other. Diabetes is not a cookie cutter condition, what works for one person might not work for you. This blog is a reflection of my own personal experiences.
There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to your diabetes management. With the advancements in technology, insulin pumps are often considered the gold-standard for managing blood sugars. However, I want to be open with my personal experience with pumping and show that it IS possible to maintain blood sugar control while on multiple daily injections (MDI). In this blog, I will be covering the downfalls I personally experienced while on an insulin pump for 3 ½ years and the future plans for my diabetes management.
My Insulin Pump Experience
When I first started pumping, I didn’t really know what to expect. Everyone on my care team told me that my management would become easier and less stressful, but my experience was far from that. I ultimately felt like I had to work harder to maintain my blood sugar levels and felt even more stressed dealing with the technology. It ultimately led me to think that I was never going to be able to manage my blood sugars because I felt frustrated with my insulin pump and my A1C ended up going higher than what it was when I was on injections.
Trusting Diabetes Technology
One of the biggest issues I had with pumping was not being able to trust the technology. I had a really difficult time figuring out if my blood sugar was elevated due to user-error (miscalculation of carbs, not a long enough prebolus, etc) or if it was a bad infusion site. It really stressed me out not being 100% certain that I was getting my insulin through the infusion site. When I am on injections, it is one less variable for me to worry and stress about. I know when I inject that I am getting insulin. I don’t have to worry about bent cannulas or bloody sites and that gives me a better piece of mind all around.
Time & Mental Commitment of Insulin Pumping
I didn’t realize the time and mental commitment that was needed to transition onto an insulin pump. I really thought that it was going to be a seamless transition, but it was not. I began pumping while I was in college and about 2 years into my diagnosis. It was a really busy season in my life as I was a full-time student taking 18-20 credits a semester, working 20-30 hours a week, being active in numerous extracurricular activities and clubs– all while trying to be a “normal” college student. I had a lot of personal responsibilities that required a lot of time and energy. On top of already feeling like I was being stretched way too thin, I really didn’t have the time or mental capacity to put in any effort into learning about my pump.. All of the pump's shiny features like extended bolusing or setting temporary basal rates really overwhelmed me. I just wanted to be able to “set it and forget it.” But that isn’t really how insulin pumps work. While I know that there may never be a perfect time to do something new, I definitely think that starting an insulin pump during a busy season of life really impacted my overall experience.
Lack of Support While Using An Insulin Pump
I felt very unsupported by my care team when I transitioned onto a pump. I had about 3 sessions to set me up and after that I was told to come back in 6 months. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I definitely was pushed into the deep end all by myself! Because of the lack of support, I didn’t really know how to maximize the functions on my pump and knew very little about how to actually use it! I thought that the settings were set in stone and that if my blood sugars out of range it must’ve been something *I* was doing wrong, instead of thinking that my settings just needed to be adjusted. I really wish I had more support from my care team during this transition as I think it would’ve made a world of a difference.
Will I Try Another Insulin Pump in the Future?
I spent 3 years giving my best shot effort to make a pump work, but ultimately I decided that after I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in 2016 that I would go on a pump-cation (summer vacation from an insulin pump) for the summer. And I have to say, this is officially the LONGEST vacation I have ever been on. Those 3 months ended up lasting more than five years. During that time, I have been really enjoying my experience with multiple daily injections.
I am a firm believer in maintaining an open-mind when it comes to how to manage diabetes. I am really grateful for the experience that I had with an insulin pump because without it I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate what I have with multiple daily injections. I also think I am better equipped for any future plans for going back onto a pump as I know what to expect.. I don’t plan to stay on MDI forever & haven’t made any official plans to go back to pumping, but I am definitely interested in seeing all of the advancements in diabetes technology and maybe one day I will be willing to give an insulin pump a second chance!