Diabetes Treatment (cont.)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
Different methods of delivering insulin
Not only is the variety of insulin preparations growing, so are the methods for administering insulin.
Pre-filled insulin pens
In the past, insulin was available only in an injectable form that involved carrying syringes (which a few decades ago were made of glass and required sterilization), needles, vials of insulin, and alcohol swabs. Needless to say, patients often found it difficult to take multiple shots each day, and, as a result, good blood sugar control was often compromised. Many pharmaceutical companies are now offering discreet and convenient methods of delivering insulin.
Some manufacturers offer an insulin pen delivery system. This system is similar to an ink cartridge in a fountain pen. A small pen-sized device holds an insulin cartridge (usually containing 300 units). Cartridges are available in the most widely used insulin formulations, such as those listed in the table above. The amount of insulin to be injected is dialed in by turning the bottom of the pen until the required number of units is seen in the dose-viewing window. The tip of the pen consists of a needle that is replaced with each injection. A release mechanism allows the needle to penetrate just under the skin and deliver the required amount of insulin. The cartridges and needles are disposed of when finished and new ones simply are inserted. In many cases, the entire pen is disposed of. These insulin delivery devices are less cumbersome than traditional methods.
The most recently available advance in insulin delivery is the insulin pump. An insulin pump is composed of a pump reservoir similar to that of an insulin cartridge, a battery-operated pump, and a computer chip that allows the user to control the exact amount of insulin being delivered. Currently, pumps on the market are about the size of a pager or beeper. The pump is attached to a thin plastic tube (an infusion set) that has a cannula (like a needle but soft) at the end through which insulin passes. This cannula is inserted under the skin, usually on the abdomen. The cannula is changed every two days. The tubing can be disconnected from the pump while showering or swimming. The pump is used for continuous insulin delivery, 24 hours a day. The amount of insulin is programmed and is administered at a constant rate (basal rate). Often, the amount of insulin needed over the course of 24 hours varies depending on factors like exercise, activity level, and sleep. The insulin pump allows for the user to program many different basal rates to allow for this variation in lifestyle. In addition, the user can program the pump to deliver additional insulin during meals to cover the excess demands for insulin caused by the ingestion of carbohydrates with the meal.
Insulin pumps allow for tight blood sugar control and lifestyle flexibility while minimizing the effects of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). At present, the pump is the closest device on the market to an artificial pancreas. More recently, newer models of the pump have been developed that do not require a tubing, in fact - the insulin delivery device is placed directly on the skin and any adjustments needed for insulin delivery are made through a PDA like device that must be kept within a 6 foot range of the insulin delivery device, and can be worn in a pocket, kept in a purse, or on a tabletop when working.
Probably the most exciting innovation in pump technology is the ability to use the pump in tandem with newer glucose sensing technology. Glucose sensors have improved dramatically in the last few years, and are an option for patients to gain further insight into their patterns of glucose response to tailor a more individual treatment regimen. The newest generation of sensors allows for a real time glucose value to be given to the patient. The implantable sensor communicates wirelessly with a pager-sized device that has a screen. The device is kept in proximity to the sensor to allow for transfer of data, however, it can be a few feet away and still receive transmitted information. Depending on the model, the screen displays the blood glucose reading, a thread of readings over time, and a potential rate of change in the glucose values. The sensors can be programmed to produce a "beep" if blood sugars are in a range that is selected as too high or too low. Some can provide a warning beep if the drop in blood sugar is occurring too quickly.
To take things one step further, there is one particular sensor that is new to the market that is designed to communicate directly with the insulin pump. While the pump does not yet respond directly to information from the sensor, it does "request" a response from the patient if there is a need for adjustments according to the patterns it is programmed to detect. The ultimate goal of this technology is to "close the loop" by continuously sensing what the body needs, and then responding by providing the appropriate dose of insulin.
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Diabetes Treatment - Effective Treatments Question: Please describe what treatments have been effective for your diabetes.
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Diabetes Treatment - Insulin Pens Question: Describe how you use pre-filled insulin pens and the environment in which they are most convenient for you.