Tired of Needles? Is There an Easier Way to Take Insulin?

Are you tired of all the fuss involved in taking insulin when you are away from home? Do you find it a hassle to carry syringes and bottles of insulin? Do you worry about keeping your bottles of insulin at the right temperature? If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, then an insulin pen may be a solution for you.

What is an insulin pen?

An insulin pen is similar in size to a writing pen. It’s easy to carry and ready to use when you need it. Imagine a writing pen that is filled with insulin instead of ink and has a short, thin needle at the end.

How do you use an insulin pen?

Overall, insulin pens are easy to learn how to use but before injecting, make sure to read the complete instructions. To use a pen, you just turn the knob at the top until you see the number of insulin units you need to take. There are many different insulin pens available. Some pens are thrown away after all the insulin inside them is used up. Other pens allow you to keep reusing the pen and throw away only the empty insulin cartridge. There are five pens, or insulin cartridges, in a box. Each pen or cartridge is filled with 300 units of insulin. Some pens can be used for seven to ten days and others can be used for up to a month.

Certain pens are easier to use than others because there are fewer steps involved or the buttons are easier to press. Larger numbers are found on some pens, and a few come with magnifiers to help make sure you are getting an accurate dose. You may not want the extra step of loading a cartridge and prefer a pen that comes already filled with insulin.

Different pens match up with each type of insulin. Some pens can only be used with a certain brand of insulin. For example, the Sanofi-Aventis OptiClik pen can only be used with Lantus. Similarly, the FlexPen, from Novo Nordisk, is available prefilled with either NovoLog or NovoLog Mix 70/30.

There may be other issues that should also be considered when selecting a type of insulin. The type of insulin prescribed is based on your body’s needs, your schedule, and sometimes, your insurance plan. Or, you and your health care provider may decide to change to a different brand of insulin because you prefer the pen that goes with it.

An insulin pen can make taking insulin easier because…

  • All you need to carry is the pen and a small pen needle that gets twisted onto the end of the pen.
  • An insulin pen gives you an exact amount of insulin
  • The insulin pen you are currently using is supposed to be kept at room temperature so it’s easy to carry in your pocket or purse.

PEOPLE WHO MIGHT BENEFIT FROM A PEN INCLUDE THOSE WHO:

  • Take insulin before each meal and are away from home often.
  • Have a hard time filling a syringe.

Insulin pens are not for everyone and maybe you are comfortable with your current routine. If you decide to make the switch, first discuss it with your health care provider. Also, ask your health care provider for a demonstration before you fill your prescription. You also need to find out if your health plan covers insulin pens and if there is a different co-payment for pens or bottles of insulin. Insulin and pens will be covered under the Medicare Part D Prescription Insurance. When you figure out the cost of insulin pens and bottles, consider which option is best for you.

Tips for pen use

– Insulin pens use special disposable pen needles that are very thin and short. The pen needles come in different lengths and thicknesses known as the needle “gauge.” Several types are available, so ask your health care provider or diabetes educator about the best pen needle for your needs.

– Twist a new needle onto the pen right before you use the pen and remove it after your injection. If you leave the needle on the pen, air can go into the pen and you may not get the right dose of insulin.

– Each time you use your pen, make sure that insulin is coming out of the needle by squirting a unit of insulin into the air. Every pen comes with directions about this step.

– Whenever you give an injection, leave the needle in your skin for a few seconds before removing the needle. This allows the insulin to get into your body. If you remove the needle too quickly, insulin can leak out and you won’t get as much as you need. This could cause high blood glucose levels.

– Keep the pen you are using at room temperature (59-86ºF, not in the refrigerator) and store the rest of the pens or cartridges in the refrigerator. Some words of caution: Don’t store your pens in the freezer, don’t use them if they have been frozen and don’t carry your insulin pen with a needle attached.

It’s worth speaking to your health care provider to help you decide if using an insulin pen is the right choice for you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been taking insulin for years or you are about to start taking insulin. An insulin pen might just make it easier!

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