Insulin PENS VS. Insulin PUMP: my Personal Preferences

One of the most common questions I get is, “Why do you prefer insulin pens over the pump?” so I thought it would be helpful to lay out all of my insulin delivery method thoughts for anyone to read.

When I was younger, and going to diabetes camp a few times a year, I had asked the same question to one of my counselors after feeling like the pump may not be for me. He said to me “Well, some people are pump people, and some people just aren’t”.

Ariana + Insulin: A Brief History

I was diagnosed 16 years ago at age 10. Right out of the hospital, with my smelly diabetes injection bear in hand, I was put on Novolog and NPH injections. I had to eat every few hours on a regular schedule that my parents were STRICT to implement so you KNOW that meant I couldn’t sleep in past 8 am on weekends and always got ice cream as a nighttime complex carb snack (I didn’t complain about that one).

I was on insulin vial injections until the end of 8th grade. As I was about to start high school, my endocrinologist suggested I try out the pump, since the technology was getting better and they had a pink one (hello, say no more). So a few weeks later I was hooked up to my little pink insulin pump and ready to go.

I had my pump for about a year before deciding to switch to insulin pens*. Since then, I’ve injected for every meal and couldn’t be happier living my tubeless insulin pen life. My experience on the pump was brief and many years ago, and my outlook on care and level of diabetes management has increased since then, so my below opinions are a mix of current personal preferences and factors I didn’t enjoy about specific things back in the day.

Here’s why I prefer to use an insulin pen:

  1. I don’t like having something attached to me with a tube. I hated ripping my site off on door handles or when I accidentally dropped my pump. I felt limited when going to the gym or playing sports and didn’t enjoy that it was just always ~ t h e r e ~. I also found it to be a constant physical reminder of my diabetes, which at 15 was a lot for me. As an adult, I don’t find the reminder of my diabetes as limiting as I once did, hence why I enjoy wearing a Dexcom nowadays.
  2. I enjoy the simplicity of an insulin pen. I swap out my pen for a new one every few weeks, which doesn’t involve a full ceremony of gadgets to take off / attach to my body. I also never enjoyed planning my life around changing my pump site / re-upping on insulin every 3 days. I also enjoy traveling with fewer supplies.
  3. I don’t mind bringing my insulin/needles with me wherever I go. As a female, I already bring a purse everywhere. As a diabetic, I already bring snacks and a backup glucose meter everywhere. I might as well store an insulin pen and some needles in the same bag.
  4. I don’t wear a lot of pockets. The stress of wondering where I am going to clip on my insulin pump would just be another thing to think about and who has the time?! Don’t even get me started on DRESSES! I’m honestly just too lazy to want to think about this.
  5. I don’t mind injecting in public. Okay, sometimes I do (I’m human), but for the most part, I don’t mind the quick injection that must happen as a type 1 diabetic in the wild.
  6. My site rotation is better with an insulin pen. I always felt very limited in site locations when I was on the pump. hips, tummy, butt, and repeat. Back in the day I never realized the pure skill and outfit planning it would take to make an arm site work for me. I ended up with a lot of scar tissue around my stomach which ended up making me feel very insecure.

At the end of the day, it comes down to a personal preference of how someone wants to manage their diabetes. Both options are available for that reason — for people to choose which one works best for them.

Insulin pumps have so many benefits not listed in this post. I can only speak to what I remember as to why I now prefer insulin pens. A lot of people find better blood sugar control with pump technology. Definitely talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of each method for added insight and information.

I hope this information is helpful to those curious as to why I prefer insulin pens over the pump. Who knows, maybe I will give pumps another try someday! But for right now, I am very happy with my multiple daily injections.

* In March 2020, I currently use Humalog Quikpen for my short acting insulin, and Tresiba as my long acting insulin.

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