Insulin pens make things easy. Here’s how to use ‘em.
Insulin helps the body control high blood sugar. It is a hormone produced naturally by the body, but it can also be used as a medication to treat both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. (Find out the difference between these two diabetes types here.)
Insulin is often in the form of an injectable—which can be unnerving for some. “When people tell me that they’re scared of needles, I understand it can be very intimidating,” says Ana Kausel, MD, endocrinologist in New York City. Many patients don’t realize how tiny the needles used for insulin injections are, and they’re often less nervous once they see the actual needle.
Your insulin injection may come in a few different forms. Traditionally, it came in a vial, and you would need to use a needle and syringe. Today, you have other options: “The most common presentation of insulin nowadays is insulin pens,” says Dr. Kausel.
How to Use an Insulin Pen
Use one pen at a time. Your doctor will give you a certain number of insulin pens, and it’s important to only open one pen at a time. “Leave the rest of the pens in the refrigerator,” says Dr. Kausel. “Once you open one box, you can leave that pen at room temperature until you use it all.” Avoid exposing your pen to extreme temperatures.
Use a new needle every time. Your insulin pen will come with small needles that are for individual use—meaning you’ll need to use a new needle each time.
Prep the pen. After you screw the needle in, you’ll dial two units. This helps squeeze extra air out of the pen. Push the button at the top of the pen until the dial reads zero and a drop of insulin comes out. This means the pen is ready for injection.
Set the pen to your prescribed dosage. Now, you’ll dial the pen to the dosage prescribed by your doctor. It’s crucial to take the appropriate amount of insulin, since this can help prevent high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) or low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Here are tips for monitoring blood sugar levels.
Pick the area on your body where you wish to inject. “Make sure this area is clean,” says Dr. Kausel. “Common areas of injection are the abdomen, the back of the abdomen, and the outer thigh.”
Squeeze the skin and inject the medicine. When you’re ready to inject, press the needle into the area, holding the area around the injection site firmly with your other hand (this can help alleviate the sensation of the needle). Hold down the button on top of the insulin pen to release the insulin. When the dial reaches zero, continue holding the button and count to five. The injection is complete: Take the pen out, and then release the button.
Safely dispose of the needle. Unscrew the needle from your insulin pen, and dispose of it safely in a designated container. While in storage, be sure to keep the cap on the insulin pen.
If you are having difficulties using your insulin pen or other injection devices, you should talk to your doctor. When used correctly, this device can be life-saving.
Dr. Kausel is an endocrinologist specializing in diabetes, obesity, and metabolic disorders in New York City.
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<< The most common presentation of insulin nowadays
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is insulin pens.
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The prescriber will give you a certain amount of pens.
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You're gonna open one pen at a time,
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and leave the rest of the pens in the refrigerator.
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Make sure you don't put your pen
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under extreme weather changes, either too cold or too hot.
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Basically, that they stay within room temperature.
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You will require a new needle each time
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you're gonna inject yourself a new dose of insulin.
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You're gonna screw the needle in.
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You dial two units, and then push and see bubbles
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and insulin coming out of the pen.
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The insulin has the reservoir, which is the amount
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of units it can hold per pen.
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It goes from 300 to 900 units.
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The dosage knob will determine how many units
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you're about to inject.
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This number will be determined by your doctor.
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Pick the area where you wish to inject
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and make sure this area is clean.
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Common areas of injection are the abdomen,
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the back of the abdomen, and the outer thigh.
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You put the pen in, pressing firmly with your fingers
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around it so you won't feel the needle itself,
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you only feel your fingers.
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You press until the dosage knob marks zero,
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and after that you count five seconds.
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You take the pen out.
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So injectable medications are not only insulin.
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There are other non-insulin medications
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that are also injectable, and when people tell me
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that they're scared of needles, I understand
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it can be very intimidating.
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Patients usually have the misconception
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that any injectable medication has a huge needle,
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and once I show them the needle, they pretty much
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agree to it because the needle is almost invisible.
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How to use an insulin pen. Boston, MA: Massachusetts General Hospital, 2019. (Accessed on February 12, 2020 at https://www.massgeneral.org/children/diabetes/how-to-use-an-insulin-pen.)
Human insulin injection. Washington, DC: MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Accessed on February 10, 2020 at https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682611.html.)
Insulin routines. Arlington, VA: American Diabetes Association. (Accessed on February 10, 2020 at https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/medication-management/insulin-other-injectables/insulin-routines.)