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What are insulin pens and how to use them?

Insulin is the hormone responsible for controlling blood sugar in the human body and people suffering from diabetes usually require an external source of insulin due to the insufficiency of the insulin produced in-house. The insulin has to be administered subcutaneously (under the skin) through an injection. Insulin pens are compact devices that make insulin injection easy and painless, as opposed to its more popular counterpart, the vial and syringe method.

Insulin pens can inject any amount of dosage ranging from 0.5 to 80 units, increments of 0.5, 1 or 2 units.

Insulin pens

Types of insulin pens

Two different types of insulin pens are available in the market. 

  • Disposable insulin pens – This type of insulin pen consists of a pre-filled amount of insulin in a cartridge. Once this cartridge is used up completely, the whole pen is discarded. It is not possible to reuse this type of insulin pen. They can last from a few days to a few weeks depending on the dosage of insulin intake. Since the cartridges are pre-filled, it is necessary to check for the type of insulin in the pen before buying one. The cost of these insulin pens is around Rs. 1500. The cartridges can contain up to 1000 units of insulin.
  • Reusable insulin pens – As the name suggests, this type of insulin pen can be reused by changing the cartridge once it is empty. These pens are designed to last for years. The size of the cartridge also differs in these pens. The more popular cartridge size is 3mL while a 3.5mL version is also available. The cost of cartridges is around $130 and the insulin inside it is around $0.45 per unit. Some advanced reusable insulin pens, known as smart insulin pens, can download data or be connected to a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) for efficient management of diabetes.

How to use an insulin pen?

1. Wash your hands before handling the insulin pen. If a new pen is used, remove the pen from the refrigerator 30 minutes before using as the insulin must be administered at room temperature.

 

Wash your hands before handling the insulin pen

2. Remove the cap of the insulin pen and check for the expiry of insulin in the cartridges

3. In the case of fast-acting insulin, make sure that the insulin is clear and free of any particles. In the case of intermediate or long-acting insulin, the insulin will look cloudy. Roll the pen gently or turn the pen up and down until the white powder completely disappears.

4. Insert a new insulin pen needle into the pen. Do not remove the cover of the insulin pen needle until just before the injection. Push the insulin pen needle into the pen and rotate it clockwise tightly. Make sure the needle is straight.

5. The insulin pen needle usually consists of an inner cap and an outer cap. Remove both the caps. Dispose of the inner cap and save the outer cap for safe disposal of the needle itself.

6. Remove the air bubble from the pen, as it can cause pain during injection. Initially inject 2 units of insulin out to check if the pen is functioning properly. You should be able to see a drop of insulin on the tip of the needle when you inject it. If insulin is not ejected, use a new pen.

insulin pens

7. Turn the dial to the required dosage of insulin. For every unit increase in the dial, a click sound is heard and can be used for loading an accurate amount of insulin to be injected. Double-check the amount of insulin loaded, as neither a low nor a high dosage of insulin is desirable.

8. Insulin can be injected into the abdomen, upper arms, buttocks, side thighs and hip. Insulin works fastest when injected into the abdomen. Hold the fold of skin where you target to inject the insulin and keep the pen at 90 degrees unless the doctor advised otherwise.

9. Insert the needle into the fold of the skin. Push the release button in the insulin pen and wait for some time for the whole dosage of insulin to infuse into the body.

10. Remove the needle from the pen and dispose of it after covering it with the outer cap.

Benefits of using insulin pens

Insulin pens offer a quick and easy way of injecting insulin. It does not require the manoeuvre of drawing insulin from a vial before injecting it. People using insulin pens also review that they are painless and much more convenient than syringes. They also do not require refrigeration other than before the first shot. They can be stored at room temperature and away from sunlight. Insulin pens are small, portable and discreet. It is also possible to administer the accurate dosage which is difficult with a syringe.

Limitations of insulin pens

Insulin pens are disadvantageous in some aspects like they cannot mix two types of insulin. If mixing of two insulins is prescribed, the patient has to go with the conventional syringe and vial method. The insulin pens are expensive and cannot be afforded by many people. Insulin pens also lead to a loss of a small amount of insulin with every usage, making it inefficient. 

Insulin pen price:

Insulin pens come in packs and hence are bought as a whole pack. The insulin pen price may vary depending on the brand as well as where it is bought. It may range between $150 dollars to $600 dollars.

Insulin pens are not for everyone. While some people prefer it, others would rather use the other methods like vial and syringe, and an insulin pump. However, insulin pens are a much better option in terms of accuracy and portability. Diabetic management not only requires identifying the right type of diet and exercise, but also the right type of insulin injection. Choose them if you want a painless and accurate way of insulin injection!

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