Making Diabetes Management More Convenient: Insulin Pens and How to Use Them
Insulin pens aren’t right for everyone with diabetes, but for those who can use them, they make management of the condition much easier. Learn the correct technique for using one.
It’s as easy as the click of a pen – and it discreetly fits in your pocket, purse, backpack or briefcase. An insulin pen is a handy insulin delivery system that may be right for you. It eliminates the need for insulin syringes and vials, and replaces them with portable premeasured, insulin-filled cartridges. Insulin pens provide easy, accurate dosing. They are one of several convenient insulin delivery methods available today. But they aren’t suited for everyone. Not all types of insulin or mixed insulins are available in pen form.
Although they might be more costly up front, insulin pens may reduce costs in the long run. They give more accurate dosing, resulting in less waste. Pens are also more convenient, which lowers the chances that you’ll miss a dose and end up with complications.
What is an insulin pen?
Insulin pens are available in two forms: disposable or reusable. The reusable type uses prefilled replacement insulin cartridges.
- All insulin pens use disposable needles. These are usually very short and thin, so they’re less painful to inject.
- They all have a dial you use to program the desired dose.
How do you use an insulin pen?
Using an insulin pen makes insulin delivery easy. Follow the instructions that come with your pen. Remember these tips:
- If you use an insulin suspension (a cloudy insulin, such as NPH) or a premixed insulin, tip the pen gently back and forth about 10 times to be sure the insulin is well mixed.
- If needed, prime to clear any air out of the cartridge.
- Hold the needle in place for several seconds to be sure no insulin leaks out.
- Always discard a needle after you use it, and use a new needle for each injection. Be sure to dispose of the used needle properly. Throw out used needles in a container where other people won’t come into contact with them. Ask your pharmacy for a sharps disposal container.
- Always take the needle off the pen right after use. Do not put a new needle on until you are ready to use the pen again. If you walk around with the needle and pen attached, it could change the insulin dose you receive, especially if you go between warm and cold places. This can cause the insulin to contract or expand.
- Ask your doctor, pharmacist or diabetes educator about how to store insulin pens and cartridges.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of insulin pens?
As with most things, there are plusses and minuses to using an insulin pen, including:
|It’s an easy and convenient way to get your insulin, especially when you’re away from home.||If you need two types of insulin, you may need two separate pens, unless a premixed version is available for your pen.|
|Dialing the premeasured dose makes insulin delivery easier and dosage more accurate, especially for people with vision or coordination problems.||They are more expensive at first than vials and syringes, but may save you more money in the long run.|
|Injections done by insulin pens are usually less painful than those by syringe.||Cartridges are not available for every type of insulin.|
The future: a pen with a brain
Newer insulin pens with more features are being developed, such as those that contain a memory chip to store the date, time and amount of insulin for a certain amount of injections.