AUG 11, 2023 2:00 PM PDT

Limitations of Insulin Pump Technology: Skin Scarring

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

Researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine recently published a first-of-its-kind study looking at an oft-overlooked problem facing people with diabetes who use insulin pump machines: scarring. The study is published in a recent edition of the journal Diabetes Care.

Insulin pumps emerged as a breakthrough in the treatment and manage of diabetes, a chronic condition affecting millions of people worldwide. Specifically, insulin pumps changed how people managed their insulin, which, before pumps, had to be administered through various needles at certain times in the day. With the advent of insulin pumps, people were able to rely on their pump to administer the right amount of insulin at the right time, helping avoid self-injections and improving the overall quality of life for people with diabetes. It also avoided the need for manually testing blood sugar levels.

The other side of the proverbial coin, however, is rearing its ugly head.

Specifically, according to researchers, insulin pumps are causing scarring, fibrosis, and irritation at injection sites. As people move their insulin pump around due to sensitivity, more areas of their body become fibrotic and irritated. As a result, insulin pumps may be less able to deliver insulin effectively. The study published by UW researchers is one of the first looks at what’s going on beneath the surface of the skin.

According to the study, researchers enrolled 30 people with diabetes who used insulin pumps. They divided participants into 2 groups: people who have had an insulin pump for less than 10 years, and people who have had an insulin pump for 20 years or more. Researchers expected they would find more inflammation in people who had worn insulin pumps for longer, but the results surprised them. In fact, they noted no significant different between the groups.

The team did find high levels of eosinophils, or white blood cells that can cause fibrosis. The team also took skin biopsies and conducted specialized imaging scans of the insulin pump site to gather further information. Overall, researchers are still unclear what exactly is causing fibrosis and inflammation, whether it be the catheters used in the insulin pump or insulin itself.

Sources: EurekAlert!; Diabetes Care

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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