Better Diabetes Management with Pumps Plus Monitor

If you are a diabetic who needs insulin shots, new research findings show you may have better diabetes management using an insulin pump plus continuous blood sugar sensors. This is compared to using the finger-stick testing and insulin shots. Diabetics using continuous blood sugar monitors to track their glucose levels automatically had better blood sugar levels than people who used just the finger stick testing. Both the finger-stick testing and the continuous blood sugar monitors were effective in preventing dangerously low drops in blood sugar.

A continuous blood sugar monitor is a device that measures blood glucose levels 24/7.  Similar to an insulin pump, it is placed under the skin and changed every 3-7 days, depending on the device. While it doesn’t completely eliminate  the need for finger-sticks that are necessary with self-blood glucose monitoring, it does decrease the number needed.

Using Insulin Pumps to Manage Diabetes

Using insulin pumps to manage diabetes is a technique that has been available for years. Advances in technology have succeeded in improving the insulin pump, including reducing the size of the pump to a very small and discreet size. Insulin pumps are now available with tubing-free, wireless capabilities. However, most studies show that insulin pumps are really no more effective in the control of blood sugar than self-injection.

According to Dr. Sherita Hill Golden, an associate professor of medicine and endocrinology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore:

“We found similar levels of glycemic control and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) when we compared insulin pumps versus multiple daily injections. In adults with type 1 diabetes, there was a slight advantage to the pump. And, there was a suggestion that people that use an insulin pump had a somewhat better quality of life.”

Insulin Pumps Plus Blood Sugar Monitors

However, the addition of coordinated real-time continuous blood sugar monitors results in better blood sugar control.  This was the conclusion of a new analysis of 33 previous studies recently published online July 10 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

In this study, the researchers examined data on:

  • Insulin pumps vs. multiple daily injections
  • Continuous glucose monitoring with self-monitoring
  • Insulin pumps that had continuous blood sugar monitors to multiple injections with self-monitoring

The results?

The use of continuous glucose monitors compared to self-blood glucose monitoring lowered A1C levels by .26 percent without increasing levels of severe hypoglycemia. And, the sensor-augmented pump reduced A1C levels by .68 percent compared to self- blood glucose monitoring in people with type 1 diabetes. Source: health.usnews.com

Again, according to Dr. Golden, ”Continuous glucose monitoring, whether alone or with a pump, appears to be beneficial.”

While many practitioners see fewer hypoglycemic episodes with their patients who use insulin pumps, this study did not reach that conclusion. However, the study was a meta-analysis, combining different demographics and different study designs. Further study using a crossover study of study participants each spending several weeks using one of the three different insulin delivery and blood sugar monitoring may yield more evidence in what technology is best for diabetes management.