Jeff Angileri
Dec 10, 2008, 8:49 PM

Imagine treating diabetes without the use of painful needles and insulin injections.

It's not science fiction -- it's now a reality for patients.

New technology is allowing people to test their blood sugar and get insulin needle free -- and it's available right here in clinics and hospitals southern Wisconsin.

Diabetes patient Melanie Fagan says she'd never go back to insulin shots.

I love not having to worry about leaving the house, grabbing a freezer bag of insulin, and my syringes. It's on me, she said.

Sue Anderson feels the same way.

Unless of course, you like being a lab rat, eating when a clock tells you it's time to eat, or eating a set amount because the clock told you it's time to eat, Anderson said.

They're among several patients at Dean--St. Mary's Dells clinic to use an insulin pump. It fits in the palm of the hand, and connects to the body by a tiny tube, which delivers a natural, constant rate of insulin, smilier to the pancreas. It is easily disconnected so patients can exercise, shower, and do other activities.

You have more freedom, you can turn up or down the insulin that that person is receiving as they need it, said registered dietitian Kate Collins. She works with diabetes patients. When they come in for check-ups, she takes the insulin pumps, and downloads information wirelessly to her computer. Charts and graphs give hour by hour details on how much insulin the body needed at certain times of day. This kind of knowledge is allowing patients to live more spontaneous lifestyles.

Anderson said, When I was on shots I never would have been able to have a baby, because I would never have been able to get it under control. I just feel more human, and more free.

The insulin pumps are very expensive. They run about $5,000. Dietitian Kate Collins says most insurance companies will cover the cost of the pump as well as the clinical visits so patients can learn how to use them. Doctors say insulin pumps are effective in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.