Managing diabetes often requires taking insulin shots throughout the day. Insulin delivery systems such as insulin pens can make giving insulin shots much easier. If you currently use a vial and syringe to deliver your insulin, switching to an insulin pen may make it easier manage your diabetes. Insulin pens don’t eliminate the need to poke yourself with a needle. They simply make measuring and delivering your insulin less complicated. However, those that do sometimes find that sticking to an insulin schedule can be demanding, disruptive, and draining. Some people prefer insulin pens as a way to make taking insulin less intrusive and inconvenient. Insulin pens deliver anywhere from .5 to 80 units of insulin at a time. They can deliver insulin in increments of one-half unit, one unit, or two units. The maximum dose and the incremental amount vary among pens. The amount of total insulin units in the cartridges vary as well. In this article, we look at the types of insulin pen, how to use them, and the benefits and disadvantages of choosing an insulin pen over a vial and syringe.
Different brands and models of insulin pen are available. Most fall into two distinct categories: disposable and reusable.
· A disposable pen: This contains a prefilled insulin cartridge. Once used, the entire pen unit is thrown away.
· A reusable pen: This contains a replaceable insulin cartridge. Once empty, a person discards the cartridge and installs a new one.
A person must replace the disposable needle after each injection of insulin. With proper care, reusable insulin pens can last for several years.
How To Use
Follow the instructions for using an insulin pen closely, as they vary slightly in use between manufacturers. People who have never used an insulin pen before may need to seek advice from their doctor before first use. Here is a general guide for insulin pen use. However, you may find that some steps are different when purchasing a particular brand. Clarify how to use any specific insulin pen with a doctor. The overall steps are as follows:
· Remove a new pen from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you use it. Insulin should be injected at room temperature.
· Wash your hands. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. This will help decrease your risk for an infection.
· Remove the cap from the pen. Wipe the needle attachment area with an alcohol swab.
· Attach a new needle to the pen. Remove the tab from the needle. Do not remove the outer cap on the needle. Push the needle straight onto the pen. Turn the needle clockwise until you cannot turn it more. Make sure the needle is straight.
· Remove the needle caps. Remove the outer cap and save it. Remove the inner cap and throw it away.
· Remove air from the pen.
· Select the correct dose on the pen.
· Clean the skin where you will inject the insulin.
· Grab a fold of your skin. Gently pinch the skin and fat between your thumb and first finger.
· Insert the needle straight into your skin. Do not hold the syringe at an angle. Make sure the needle is all the way into the skin. Let go of the pinched tissue.
· Push the injection button to inject the insulin. Continue to press on the injection button. Keep the needle in place for 10 seconds.
· Pull the needle out. Replace the needle cap. Press on your injection site for 5 to 10 seconds. Do not rub. This will keep insulin from leaking out.
· Remove the needle from the pen. Twist the capped needle counter clockwise. Place the needle in a heavy-duty laundry detergent bottle or a metal coffee can. The container should have a cap or lid that fits securely.
· Replace the pen cap. Store the pen as directed.
Unopened insulin and new insulin pens require storage in the refrigerator. However, once a person has opened insulin, they must keep the hormone at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. According to the American Diabetes Association, when a person stores insulin at room temperature, it lasts for around 28 days. Expiry date depends on the type of insulin that the pen contains. It is always important to check the date and follow any instructions for storage and use. Expired or improperly stored insulin may not be as effective as it should be. Insulin pens should never be stored with the needle attached, even if it is a new needle. This can affect the cleanliness and sterility of the needle, interfere with the insulin dose given, and increase the risk of infection.
Patients report an easier overall injection experience when using an insulin pen. Pens tend to be more socially friendly because they are smaller and less noticeable than the classic vial-and-syringe. Insulin pens are more portable for people on-the-go. Pens that are open do not need to be refrigerated and can be thrown into a pocket or purse for easy travel. Room temperature insulin tends to be absorbed better. Pens are user-friendly when patients get specific instruction from a doctor, diabetes nurse educator or pharmacist. This training usually takes less time than teaching someone how to use a vial-and-syringe. Also, the recent introduction of safety needles has been helpful for patients who are anxious about using needles. The ADA advises doctors to prescribe an insulin pen for people who have issues with finger dexterity problems and reduced vision. An insulin pen can support a more accurate dose of insulin than a vial and syringe. Other advantages include:
· ease of use, particularly for older adults and children
· the ability of a person with diabetes to fine-tune and deliver highly accurate doses using an insulin pen
· the portable, discreet, and convenient nature of the pens
· small and thin needle sizes that reduce fear and pain
· the ability to accurately pre-set doses using a dial
· time-saving benefits, due to prefilled and pre-set insulin levels
· memory features that recall the timing and amount of the previous dose
· a range of accessories to allow for easier storage and use
Although insulin pens provide many benefits, they also have some drawbacks, including:
· a restriction on using all types of insulin through a pen, for example on using mixtures of different types in one injection
· being available for self-injection only
· a higher cost than the vial and syringe method
· the wasting of some insulin with each use
· a lack of universal coverage by some insurance provider
While insulin pens might be more expensive than a vial and syringe, they are more convenient, less painful, and easily storable and transportable. They essentially combine the vial and syringe, allowing greater dose accuracy and easier administration of doses. Be sure to closely follow the instructions on the packaging and store insulin in a cool dry place once open. Insulin alone can help manage diabetes, but maintaining a balanced diet and exercise regimen alongside any prescribed medications is an effective route to controlling blood sugar.