It’s intimidating at first, but today’s auto-injector pens make it easy.
Biologics may be a life-changing treatment for some people with psoriatic arthritis. One hurdle to using these medicines is that they often come in the form of an injection. Learning how to give yourself an injection is an important first step in using biologics to treat psoriatic arthritis.
Today, you can give yourself an injection using an auto-injector pen. The needle is small and hidden. You don’t have to “push” the medicine in like you do with a syringe. Instead, you press a button, and the pen takes care of the rest. This makes the process much more comfortable, especially for people who may be nervous with needles.
How do you give an injection with biologics for psoriatic arthritis?
When your doctor first prescribes biologics, they will go over the process with you. Often, doctors will have a “dummy” injector in their office that you can practice with. Your doctor may even have you do your first injection in the office under their supervision. This can help you both feel more confident that you know how to use it.
Here is the basic outline of how to use an auto-injector pen to treat your psoriatic arthritis:
- Prepare for the injection: Let your pen sit out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Wash your hands and find a comfortable place to sit. Have alcohol swabs or wipes nearby, along with your pen.
- Prepare the injection site: Use the alcohol wipes to clean the injection site. This is often the thigh, back of the arm, or the abdomen. You should rotate which site you use so you are not injecting in the same spot every time.
- Remove the cap or caps from the pen: Some pens have a cap on both ends; some just have one cap.
- Bring the pen close to the skin.
- Pinch the skin if it helps: Some people find it helpful to pinch the skin in the area that you are injecting. This is personal preference.
- Press the injector button.
- Wait for a click: After pressing the button, most auto-injector pens today will make a click sound to let you know the injection is complete. Some have two clicks: one to let you know that the injection has started, and another several seconds later to let you know it’s complete.
- Safely dispose of the device: You may have received a puncture-resistant container with your pen for disposing.
How can I get help?
Self-injecting is easier today than ever before. Still, it’s okay to have nerves or not feel confident with the process. It might help to go to the doctor’s office when it’s time for your injection. You might feel more confident giving an injection under your doctor’s supervision. You can also ask for someone to do the injection for you, such as your doctor, a nurse practitioner, or physician assistant.
Over time, you might find yourself getting more comfortable with the process, so you are more confident using the auto-injector pen at home. Be open and honest with your doctor about how you are feeling, what your questions are, and what you may need to be successful.
Saakshi Khattri, MD, is a rheumatologist and assistant professor at the Department of Rheumatology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.