Odds are you or someone you know has type 2 diabetes, and finds monitoring their food intake and managing blood sugar levels a challenge.
It’s not easy to pass up all those sweets and cocktails, either…
To that end, insulin pumps have freed many diabetics from a routine of precisely-timed injections, but the treatment option may also provide another benefit: Better management of their diabetes.
New research published in The Lancet found that patients with type 2 diabetes showed better control of blood-sugar levels when they used an insulin pump versus insulin injections, Medical News Today reports.
Type 2 diabetes affects 90 to 95 percent of diabetics, the American Diabetes Association says. With type 2 diabetes, the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or does not properly respond to insulin. Because of this, glucose builds up in the blood, which can starve your cells of the energy they need and damage your organs and body systems over time. It is usually diagnosed in later adulthood.
By contrast, type 1 diabetes – sometimes called juvenile diabetes – usually is diagnosed in childhood. Type 1 diabetics do not produce insulin and require artificial insulin. Many type 2 diabetics rely on artificial insulin as well when lifestyle changes and treatments like metformin haven’t been enough to manage the condition.
A fine balance: Managing blood sugar
About one-third of diabetics have trouble managing their condition with insulin injections, meaning they are unable to achieve optimal levels of blood sugar, said study lead Professor Yves Reznik of the University of Caen Côte de Nacre Regional Hospital Center in France. This is why the team looked into the effectiveness of insulin pumps. The small computerized devices provide a continuous dose of insulin via a catheter just underneath the skin.
The study involved 495 type 2 diabetics aged 30 to 75 years; participants had poor blood sugar control at the outset. Initially the patients received increased daily insulin injection and were monitored to check their blood sugar levels. After two months, the researchers made note of 331 participants with glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels, which indicate blood sugar levels over the recent past that were above the target range of 8 percent or less.
Of those 331 patients, about half were randomly assigned treatment with an insulin pump, while the rest continued to receive treatment with multiple insulin shots each day. After six months of treatment, the blood sugar levels of those with insulin pumps averaged 0.7 percent lower than the patients with injections, Medical News Today reported. Also, 55 percent of the patients with pumps reached the HbA1c target range compared to just 28 percent of those with injections, and spent three fewer hours each day experiencing high blood sugar levels of hyperglycemia.
High blood sugar levels lead to worse problems
The new study is not the first to show benefits for diabetics using insulin pumps for treatment. Research published last year suggested type 1 diabetics, particularly children, were better off with insulin pumps than injections. The Princess Margaret Hospital for Children in Australia reported the use of pump therapy has increased over the last 15 years with good results – the pump causes fewer complications than insulin injections, like dangerously low blood glucose (from 14.7 events in every 100 patients a year, to 7.2 episodes).
Proper treatment for diabetes, in part through the correct administration of insulin, is important because the disease can have serious side effects. Over time, high blood sugar levels can lead to stroke, kidney failure, eye problems and nerve damage, and could contribute to premature death.
“Our findings open up a valuable new treatment option for those individuals failing on current injection regimens and may also provide improved convenience,” Prof. Reznik says, “reducing the burden of dose tracking and scheduling, and increasing insulin injection omissions.”