Insulin Pump Woes

Overall I do find my pump more convenient. But sometimes things just get to me…such as the following.

I HATE BUBBLES. No, not bubbles from gum or the soapy kind you blow when you are a kid. I hate insulin pump reservoir bubbles. For those of you who don’t have a pump/don’t have diabetes, the reservoir is like a vial where you put the insulin for 3-4 days in your pump.


Me filling a reservoir with insulin. If you look closely, there is a bubble in the reservoir toward the top.

Anyway, because I am not injecting the insulin directly into my veins or anything, a few teeny tiny champagne type bubbles are permissible. However, it seems that every time I change my pump site I have a huge air bubble stuck to the side of the reservoir. I push and push the plunger trying to get all the air into the vial before hand, but there is always a bubble. So then I flick the side of the reservoir (like you see nurses do before they administer a shot) to make the bubble float to the top so that I can push it back into the insulin vial. However, I flick and flick and flick the reservoir until I feel like my fingernail is going to fall off and it takes FOREVER for the bubble move. I don’t like to change my sites when Nick isn’t home because usually we are passing the reservoir back and forth between the two of us flicking it and yelling about how irritating it is. Are we doing something wrong? Is this just us? Why is this so annoying?

The bubble thing happens almost every time I change my set. However, it is not nearly as annoying when I get a bent cannula.

The cannula (or catheter) is a tiny plastic tube that stay inside me and under my skin for the entire duration that I wear my pump. I change the cannula and the rest of the site every 3-4 days. Because I am relatively small, sometimes the cannula will rub against muscle in areas where I do not have fat. Often this is painful. But it can also cause the cannula to bend. Sometimes I will change a site and a few hours later I note a 200-something on my glucometer. I will give myself insulin through my pump to correct this. When I recheck it will be the same or higher. Then I am annoyed. Firstly, this is annoying because I wasted a perfectly good pump site. I don’t have too many spots to put the darn thing so having to pick a new one is like a waste to me. Secondly, it is a waste of pump supplies. Thirdly, I have to go through the whole stupid process of filling up a whole new infusion set. This is a waste of insulin as each set needs to be primed. What this means is that I hook the set to the reservoir and wait until insulin has moved completely through the tubing and is dripping out of the cannula. So I do that, then reinsert the site. Annoying, annoying, annoying. Lastly, obviously, because of this whole ordeal my sugar is high which is the worst part.

Check this out:


This is a photo of my recently bend cannula. See the little plastic part at the top? That is the cannula, which when not bent stays under my skin and gives me insulin.

The last issue I have with the pump is probably the worst. I have only had it for a few months, but have some how already exhausted a lot of my usable tissue. Because of my size, the pump is not very comfortable in areas where there is not a lot of fat. The area around my belly button has always been the chubbiest part of me, so I like to put the pump there because it doesn’t hurt. Also, with the pump on my butt, pants tend to hurt it and I sit on it all the time. So I was using my stomach a lot, which is unhealthy because you develop scar tissue on spots that are overused. When this happens your body cannot absorb insulin. And then you get notifications like this:


This alert also sets of an irritating alarm. I had three no delivery alerts in one week. Once on my stomach, so I changed the site to my butt. Then after a few days, I tried my stomach again on the opposite side. At 3 in the morning my pump woke me up with a no delivery alarm and my sugar was close to 400. I called the Medtronic help line who told me to change the site AGAIN. So I did. I also had a mini-panic attack because I was so upset that the pump wasn’t working, which lead to me and Nick laying on the floor of our kitchen in the middle of the night while I freaked out. The next morning at 7:50 a.m. (my alarm was set for 8) I hear that same stupid noise. I got ANOTHER “no delivery” alarm. I thought that there was obviously something wrong with my pump, so I called the help line…again. They told me I had probably developed a lot of scar tissue. I made an appointment with an awesome diabetes educator here in Orlando. She told me that I probably shouldn’t use those sites for 6-12 months. I was shocked. My stomach is the ONLY place my pump doesn’t give me constant irritation. That was when I went on shots for about two weeks and realized how that was actually even more inconvenient to me. Now I am using my butt and my upper stomach even though it is very muscular there. I can’t use my thighs as I don’t have any fat on them. And I know some people use their arms, but I don’t like the  idea of having my arm tethered to my pants, as I clip my pump to my waist.

So yes, these are my insulin pump woes. What are yours?


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. collegeveganista
    Mar 22, 2012 @ 19:18:48

    Wow, sounds like you are having a really hard time 😦 What size cannula do you use? If you use a 9mm maybe try switching to a 6mm or you can try a different kind of pump site that goes in on an angle instead of straight in.

    I completely relate to flicking reservoirs until you feel like your finger is going to fall off. I think over the years you just get used to it (or maybe you damage all the nerves enough in that area from constant bruising that you just can’t feel it anymore). Either way I feel like it gets better.

    Have you tried your back (the area that most people have love handles)? I know you said you are small so I don’t know how much fat you have there, but it could be more comfortable for you than your butt.


    • divabetic913
      Mar 22, 2012 @ 19:55:51

      I don’t really have love handles. I use a 6 mm Quick-Set and have tried the Silhouettes. I could use them in the less fatty areas which I liked. However, I don’t like the certer that they come with, and the manual insertion is scary for me. Also I found that with them I tend to bruise a bunch and I get longer lasting bigger scars. 😦 I’m like the worst candidate for Type 1 if there ever was one. I hate needles, have the palest most sensitive scar-easy skin ever, and don’t have any useful fat. Lol.I may try sitting and inserting in love handles then. Thanks for the tip though!


  2. jocelynmchenryarruda
    Mar 22, 2012 @ 21:17:27

    Hey, have you thought about the Omnipod? I don’t have one (might consider when they come out with an even smaller model) but it looks promising.


    • divabetic913
      Mar 22, 2012 @ 21:21:54

      Actually, I have spoken to a lot of people who use it, but I don’t think that would impact the pain or insertion. It may make it worse since I would have to have the entire thing stuck on me. Plus I like that I can take the pump off, and with the Omnipod it is just stuck on you. I also like that I can hide my pump in my bra and then just have the infusion set, whereas with the Omnipod, if I wore a dress there would just be a bulge and nothing I could do about it. If I were going to switch pumps, I would like to try the Anima since it works similarly to the Medtronic Minimed which is what I have now. I wouldn’t was something I couldn’t move at all if it wad uncomfortable, and with the pumps I mentioned you can adjust but with the Omnipod you can’t. Obviously though, it is a very personal choice!


  3. DiabeticallyYours
    Mar 22, 2012 @ 21:28:02

    Bubbles: I flick them, push them out into the vial, and suck back some insulin into the reservoir. Usually works.
    Insertion: Have you tried the Silouhette instead of Quick-Set? Instead of injecting at a 90 degrees angle, you can chose the angle yourself! Especially made for tiny people like you 😉


    • divabetic913
      Mar 22, 2012 @ 21:34:22

      Yes I tried them. I think next time I order I will get one box of those and one of the quick-set. But they left a bruise on me. I can feel the cannula under my skin and it hurts a lot.


      • DiabeticallyYours
        Mar 23, 2012 @ 08:02:56

        Oh 😦 Argh! That’s a pain… (No pun intended.) What if you put the quick set infusion on your butt? That’s what I did the whole last trimester I was pregnant with Aaden cuz i was scared the needle might reach him… I know, stupid, but true! lol!

      • divabetic913
        Mar 23, 2012 @ 10:07:53

        hahah I have thought about whether or not you can use your stomach in pregnancy! That’s where I am putting it now. I just don’t like that I can’t wear certain pants with it. It also dictates which side I can sleep on and how I can sit on the couch lol

  4. DiabeticallyYours
    Mar 23, 2012 @ 11:38:11

    I know, when I wore it there, I’d forget about it often and rip it down as I would slide my pants down!
    Oh woes.


  5. Lauren Kaphengst
    Mar 26, 2012 @ 10:38:09

    If you have the quick sets, I use the certer it comes with and just hit the reservoir versus finger flicking which is a pain.


  6. Melissa
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 00:38:44

    This is my first time reading your post. Been diabetic for 17 years, and on the pump for 14 of that and, although seems like others have already suggested it, all I have ever used is the angled sites. I am on the Animas Pump (which I love), but I assume that Medtronic has something similar. With the Animas sites they also have shorter cannulas available. I found that the longer cannulas would hit my muscle and sent the pump into an alarming frenzy. When I first started pumping I had a smaller frame and with the angled sites I could put them a bit shallower, but I have gained quite a bit in the midsection, so that isn’t an issue anymore.
    I only noticed the bruising when I first started using the sites and the pump, but it seemed to go away quickly. If you can keep the site 2 inches away from your belly button, that has always seemed to help.
    I don’t notice the bubbles nearly as bad as you seem to have it. Is the insulin at room temp or right out of the fridge?? I also do not have that blue contraption between the vial and the syringe…so I don’t know if that is the issue. Drawing the insulin slower is a good idea. I know that if I have a feisty bubble that is just not letting go sometime I’ll tap the syringe with a pen or on a table to save the fingernail pain. Your fingers get abused enough with lancets. hehe
    Best of luck with everything.


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