Leader Blues

Friday, December 18, 2009

TOP STORY >> Hospital offering diabetes counseling

Leader editor

More help is available to people with diabetes and their loved ones now that White County Medical Center has announced that it will offer an insulin-pump support group. The group will be open to everyone. Participants don’t have to be on a pump to join. People of all ages are welcome, including children, and parents, spouses and relatives of pump users are also invited to join.

“The insulin pump is programmed to work like a pancreas,” said Julie Smith, a certified diabetes educator at WCMC who will run the group. The pancreas is the body’s organ that produces insulin, a hormone critical to metabolizing food. Smith trains users on four different insulin pump models.

“The way it works is it gives a small amount of basal insulin all the time to maintain normal blood sugars,” she said. Users are constantly connected to the device, which is usually about the size of a pager.

Pumps also secrete insulin on a user’s demand to cover meals. “(The) pancreas reads the amount of sugar in the blood stream and gives the proper amount of insulin based on that,” she said.

Today, technology imitates much of what the diabetic body is unable to do. Glucose monitors read sugar in the blood and many pumps automatically calculate how much insulin to give based on a monitor’s reading.

Patients with Type I and Type II use insulin pumps.

They are more commonly used by people with Type I, previously known as juvenile diabetes, because their pancreases no longer produce insulin. Patients with Type II, previously known as adult-onset diabetes, either don’t produce enough insulin or their bodies don’t respond to the insulin they are producing.

But Type II patients who are injecting insulin through syringes can consider a pump for treatment.

“(Pumps) are the best way to control blood sugar,” Smith said. Benefits include fewer complications that diabetics risk if they have untreated, chronically high blood sugars. Such complications include neuropathy and kidney and eye disease.

Smith decided to form the group after a member of a diabetes support group at WCMC asked if starting one for people with insulin pumps would be possible.

“Most people have gotten trained on them,” Smith said about the pumps.

But there’s often more to learn about the sophisticated equipment. She wants the support group to be an outlet for patients to expand their knowledge on the pump’s use and to share their experiences with each other.

Smith said most insurance plans cover the pump.

The next support group will meet at 2 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 11 in the No. 4 north conference room. For questions and more information, call Smith at 501-380-3455.