Insulin Pump May Help Reduce Hypoglycemia in Type 1 Diabetes

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is a common concern for people with type 1 diabetes who inject insulin.  A recent study published in Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics shows that certain insulin pumps can help reduce both the severity and the length of hypoglycemia attacks in people with type 1 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body is not able to produce insulin.  When we eat, our bodies convert foods such as carbohydrates into sugar which is carried through the bloodstream to the cells.  This sugar, also known as glucose, acts as an energy source for the cells.  But cells need insulin in order to acquire glucose from the blood. People with type 1 diabetes typically inject insulin to provide what the cells need.

Hypoglycemia results when there is not enough glucose in the blood to supply energy to the cells, particularly the cells in the brain.  Too little glucose can result in confusion, blurred or double vision, seizures, and loss of consciousness.

Preventing hypoglycemia requires a careful balance between the amount of food eaten and the amount of insulin injected.  If you take too much insulin compared to the glucose in your blood, your sugar may drop too low.  This can happen either by injecting too much insulin or by not eating the amount you anticipated or at the time you intended.  Your body uses glucose at a faster rate when you exercise than when you are at rest, so exercising can also cause glucose to drop.

In the recent study, researchers used exercise to induce hypoglycemia in patients with type 1 diabetes who used insulin pumps with continuous glucose monitoring.   The scientists concluded that the automated on/off feature built into the pump was valuable in reducing hypoglycemic reactions.  The pump sensors constantly monitored blood glucose levels and shut off insulin delivery when they detected low glucose levels.  The researchers also concluded the pumps’ suspension of insulin also helped prevent a rebound reaction into hyperglycemia or high blood sugar following low blood sugar.

Insulin pumps work by delivering insulin through a cannula placed under the skin.  Base amounts of insulin are injected 24 hours a day while additional insulin can be added by the user based on when meals are eaten and how many carbohydrates are consumed.

Denise DeWitt is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.

 

Sources:

Science Daily. Automatic Suspension of Insulin Delivery Via Insulin Pump Reduces Hypoglycemia. Web. February 20, 2012.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120209135329.htm

Diabetes Technology &Therapeutics. Reduction in Duration of Hypoglycemia by Automatic Suspension of Insulin Delivery: The In-Clinic ASPIRE Study. Greg Satish et al. Web. February 20, 2012.

http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/dia.2011.0292

American Diabetes Association. Advantages of Using an Insulin Pump. Web. February 20, 2012.

http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/insulin/advantages-of-using-an.html

American Diabetes Association. How do Insulin Pumps Work? Web. February 20, 2012.

http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/insulin/insulin-pumps-how-do-insulin.html

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