There are a lot of proud pumpers out there. Many insulin pump users would never consider going back to injections, and there are studies that say insulin pumps are the best tool for blood sugar control. And insulin pumps are becoming more recognizable as they make their way into underwear advertisements and onto the stage at Miss America pageants.
But the pump isn’t the only right way to manage diabetes. We love that it offers fewer injections and tight diabetes control. It’s also great that those wearing pumps are creating diabetes awareness. But there are good reasons people stick with, and sometimes return to, insulin injections, and it’s not just because they’re cheaper. Here are six reasons some are loyal to injections:
1. Injections Go In Your Bag, Not On Your Body
No one should be embarrassed to wear an insulin pump, and we love that we’re seeing them being worn loud and proud. Still, some find it inconvenient to carry something extra on their body at all times, especially if they are already wearing a continuous glucose monitor.
Wearing a pump can be a pain when you’re showering, using the restroom, or wearing a dress. And if you want to ride under the radar because you don’t feel like answering questions about diabetes, you can much more easily hide injection needles or pens than an insulin pump.
Insulin pumps work by injecting insulin into your body via a small tube. The tube has to have some length to it so that it can comfortably pump from where you carry it to where it’s injecting insulin. The tube can catch on things: door handles, belts, children you may be trying to carry, and that can be frustrating. The cannula (the needle that injects the tube into the body) can be pulled out by accident during activity or during the night, causing high blood sugar if it’s not noticed right away.
The tubing may also get twisted or blocked, which means the wearer won’t get insulin. Pumps do give alerts when they’re not able to deliver, but if the cannula is pulled out, insulin could be leaking onto the wearer’s body and the pump wouldn’t know. Some pumps, like the Omnipod insulin pump, are conveniently tubeless.
3. Injections are simple
Admittedly, a lot of folks find pumps more convenient. But those that prefer injections note that injections are quick, and learning to inject is easier than learning to use than a pump. Insulin pumps do require specialized training to learn how to program basal and bolus insulin and make adjustments when needed. Injections are easier to get the hang of right out of the gate.
4. No Mechanical Failures
Insulin pumps are generally reliable and pretty good at letting you know when they are having issues, but any electronic device has the potential to malfunction. Insulin pumps can fail, so pumpers will still need to monitor blood sugar and have a Plan B in case of pump failure.
5. Easier on the skin
Some folks develop scar tissue around injections sites since pumps require a cannula to be injected into the same spot for a few days, and that’s harder on the skin than a quick poke. Some pumpers might experience irritation if they are sensitive to the adhesive tape used to attach the injection site to the body.
It’s true that injections require more frequent pokes, but the needles are generally smaller and are in and out more quickly.
6. Cheaper supplies
Ideally, someone has excellent health insurance that covers whatever insulin solution is best for them. But in the case of a less-than-ideal situation, injection supplies are less expensive than pump supplies. With the price of insulin already infuriatingly high, saving money can be an important consideration—sometimes the most important one.
There’s no doubt that pumpers love to pump, but injections aren’t going anywhere soon. Some people with diabetes just have better luck with injections, don’t like the idea of an attached pump, or would rather inject themselves rather than rely on a machine. Someday we hope oral insulin is a viable option for all people with diabetes, until then, injectors and pumpers can unite in the fight against diabetes!
Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.