October 12, 2022
Insulin Pump vs CGM
How much is a CGM? How is an insulin pump different than a CGM? Get answers to these question and more in this product breakdown.
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If you’ve recently been diagnosed with diabetes, there’s a good chance you’ve encountered several unfamiliar terms in a short time. As part of this, you may have read about two devices used to treat diabetes: insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs).
While CGMs and insulin pumps can both help people with diabetes, they perform two very different tasks. But do you need an insulin pump and CGM, one of these devices, or neither? Instead of trying to learn more about these products from CGM/insulin pump reviews, take a look at US MED’s guide to insulin pumps and CGMs.
What is an insulin pump?
As you might expect, an insulin pump is a small device that pumps insulin into your body. Depending on what you need in a given situation, these pumps can deliver basal insulin (a steady flow of insulin) or bolus insulin (a large, quick insulin dose).
What does an insulin pump do?
When used correctly, an insulin pump can make insulin delivery easier than it would be with a traditional needle. These devices can also enhance your blood glucose control.
What is a CGM?
A CGM is a system used to monitor your glucose levels unobtrusively. While wearing a CGM, you can check your sugar around the clock.
What does a CGM do?
When you wear a CGM, you’ll usually be able to check glucose levels without the need for fingerprick testing. (However, there are some situations where you’ll still need to go through “traditional” glucose testing. These include, but are not limited to, times when your symptoms don’t match your readings.)
How much does an insulin pump cost?
If your insurance doesn’t cover them, insulin pumps can be a significant investment. You could end up paying $6,000 to buy a pump outright (not to mention an extra $3,000-$6,000 annually for sensors, batteries, and other supplies). That’s why your first step when planning to buy an insulin pump should be figuring out what your insurance will and will not cover.
How much does a CGM cost?
Since CGM technology is still relatively new, these systems can cost more than you’d expect. Along with the system itself, you’ll need to purchase replacement sensors and transmitters – which could cost you anywhere from $160 to $500 per month. The good news is that an increasing number of insurance providers are covering certain CGMs and related supplies these days, making it more likely than ever that you’ll be able to afford these products.
What is the difference between an insulin pump and a CGM?
Though CGMs and insulin pumps are both wearable technologies designed for people with diabetes, the similarities stop there. CGMs are meant to track your glucose levels, allowing you to take action if your readings are too low or high. On the other hand, insulin pumps are used to deliver insulin throughout the day and night.
Both insulin pumps and CGMs can make life with diabetes less complicated. Using them together is truly a “sweet spot” for those managing diabetes. Can you imagine having your insulin adjust automatically, based on the signals from your CGM? That’s a reality today with systems that work together, like the Dexcom G6 CGM and the tubeless, automated insulin administration available from the Omnipod 5.
That said, even if you use one of these products, there’s no reason you need to use the other. If you don’t enjoy finger prick tests but are okay with manual insulin injections – or vice versa – using an insulin pump without CGM or CGM without insulin pump can still improve your diabetes management while helping you save money.
There are a few different manufacturers of insulin pumps on the market today. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll focus on two of the leading brands in this space: Tandem’s t:slim X2 and Insulet’s OmniPod.
Tandem’s t:slim X2 pump exemplifies “traditional” insulin pump design. When using these pumps, you’ll carry a small device wherever you go, connected to your body through the use of infusion sets. . But there’s no need to worry – the Tandem pump is still highly unobtrusive.
On the other hand, Insulet’s OmniPod insulin pumps come in a wildly different form factor. With these systems, you’ll use “Pods” – tubeless pumps worn directly on your body. This product line is the right pick for you if you want the benefits of insulin therapy without having to be tethered by tubes to a device.
Unsurprisingly, there are also several different companies offering CGM systems. Here are two of the most popular brands in this category:
As the second company to sell an FDA-approved CGM, Dexcom has a reputation for offering quality glucose monitoring systems. Dexcom’s current flagship CGM is the Dexcom G6, which provides updated glucose readings every five minutes, notifications for high or low blood sugar levels, and much more.
Abbot’s FreeStyle Libre is a true innovator in the world of CGMs. The original FreeStyle CGM was approved in 2017 and was the first CGM that didn’t need measurements or fingerstick calibration. Today, products available in this line include the FreeStyle Libre 2 system and the FreeStyle Libre 3 system – the latter of which is the most accurate with the smallest sensor of any 14-day systems.
How does an insulin pump work?
When you start wearing an insulin pump, it will be programmed to meet your diabetes treatment needs. Once you’ve received training, the trainer will set up your pump, it will deliver insulin into your fatty tissue through a small tube, or “cannula.” A needle is used to insert the cannula under your skin. Some infusion sets do have an actual needle under the skin instead of a cannula. To prevent infection, you should replace your infusion set every two or three days, please consult with your healthcare provider.
What are the benefits of using an insulin pump?
Scientific research indicates that the perks of insulin pump usage go beyond convenience. Using these devices may make it easier for you to control diabetes and even reduce your hypoglycemia risk. To enjoy the full benefits of using an insulin pump, be sure to share data from your pump with your healthcare team so they can adjust your treatment plan as needed.
How does a CGM work?
Before using a CGM, you’ll need to insert a tiny canula under your skin (on your stomach or arm, typically) that is attached to a small sensor. Once it’s in place, the sensor will regularly measure glucose levels – not in your bloodstream, but in the fluid surrounding your cells. A transmitter wirelessly sends your readings to your receiver, smartphone, or insulin pump. In the case of the Freestyle Libre system, this is known as a “flash” cgm, you must scan the sensor with your reader or smartphone app to be able to see your readings.
What are the benefits and advantages of using a CGM?
CGM usage can make type 1 and type 2 diabetes easier to manage since these devices provide “snapshots” of your glucose levels throughout the day and night. You’ll get a significantly larger amount of data from these systems compared to the few readings a day that standard fingerprick testing offers. Some CGMs can also tell you when your glucose levels are dangerously high or low and the alarm is intended to wake you up when your glucose is approaching dangerous lows or highs.
Can an insulin pump be used with a CGM?
Though you don’t need to use an insulin pump with a CGM, it may be a good idea to do so. When you use both of these devices, you’ll benefit from easy glucose monitoring and insulin delivery. You can even use an insulin pump that fully integrates with CGM to create a “closed-loop system,” in which your insulin pump releases insulin whenever your CGM detects a need for it.
Best insulin pump and CGM
Every CGM and insulin pump available today is different, so it’s difficult to say which of these products is the “best.” That said, here are our recommendations for the average person with diabetes who wants to add these devices to their treatment regimen:
Best insulin pump: OmniPod 5
The OmniPod line’s sleek form factor is highly appealing, and there’s no OmniPod more advanced than the OmniPod 5. Insulet’s newest insulin pump combines the OmniPod’s signature design with features such as smartphone compatibility* and SmartAdjust technology.
Best CGM: Dexcom G6
The Dexcom G6 can consistently provide reliable glucose readings – even while using acetaminophen.† As an added bonus, the Dexcom G6 can be used along with the OmniPod 5 to create a closed-loop system.
Where to buy insulin pumps and CGMs
Whether you’re planning to buy a CGM, insulin pump, or both, the number-one supplier of these products is US MED. Take a look at what we have for sale in these categories, along with other items like insulin pens and diabetes testing supplies!
*For a list of compatible smartphone devices visit omnipod.com/compatibility.
†Acetaminophen doses higher than 1g every six hours can affect your readings.