Patient Guide to Insulin

Insulin Delivery

What’s the Best Way to Inject Insulin?

There are different ways to inject insulin into your body; this is called insulin delivery.  Syringes, pens, pumps, and jet injectors give many persons with diabetes options for their insulin delivery.

A syringe is a device with a hollow center, plunger, needle, and removable needle guard.  The outside of the syringe is marked with lines to assist you when drawing up the correct amount of insulin.

Some tips for using the syringe and needle for insulin delivery:

  • Shorter needles mean less injection discomfort.  However, injection depth affects how quickly insulin takes effect.
  • Coordinate syringe size (e.g., 1cc, 1/2cc, 3/10cc) to match insulin dose.
  • Do not re-use a syringe.
  • Do not share a syringe.
  • Dispose of used syringes in a sealable and puncture-resistant container (e.g., empty detergent bottle or in a special container created to dispose of medical waste—a sharps container) or check for drop-off sites in your community (e.g., pharmacy).

Insulin Pen
An insulin pen resembles a large pen.  It replaces the vial and syringe, assists people with poor eyesight, and helps avoid over- or under-dosing.

Different companies manufacture these devices. Pens use insulin cartridges and disposable needles.  You can select (dial) the proper dose, which is displayed in the pen’s window.  Some models allow you to reselect the dose if a mistake is made.  Needles simply screw into place and are easily removed to be properly discarded.

Some pens:

  • Do not require refrigeration after the first use
  • Have a memory to recall past doses
  • Are prefilled, disposable
  • More durable than others

Some tips for using an insulin pen:

  • Avoided prolonged exposure to cold or heat—keep your pen at room temperature after the first use.
  • Never carry an insulin pen with the needle attached
  • Do not re-use needles
  • Do not share your pen or needles with others
  • Dispose of pens/needles properly in a sealable and puncture-resistant container e.g., empty detergent bottle or in a special container created to dispose of medical waste—a sharps container) or check for drop-off sites in your community (e.g., pharmacy).

Insulin Pump
People with diabetes who have difficulty controlling blood glucose by other means (by using a syringe or pen) may find an insulin pump to be a good therapy option.  Several companies manufacture insulin pumps that are computerized / motorized and flexible use devices.  Some models serve as a glucose monitor and insulin pump.

The pump is filled with rapid or short-acting insulin.  Insulin is dosed before each meal, and there is also a small amount of insulin delivered for 24 hours.  The patient learns to calculate how much insulin is needed based on the carbohydrate content (grams) meal or snack.  The pump prevents overdosing.

The pump is not implanted inside the patient’s body.  Rather, it is is attached to a catheter when needed.  The catheter is implanted in the patient’s abdomen beneath skin and fatty layers. The pump can be attached to different areas of the body, but is commonly placed on the waist.

Jet Injection
Jet injection devices are for persons with diabetes who cannot tolerate needles.  The injector holds several insulin doses.  To administer a dose, the patient simply holds the injector against the skin, pushes a button, and a jet of air forces insulin through the skin.  It may cause bruising.  Jet injectors are not as commonly used as other types of insulin delivery.

Insulin Injection Technique
It’s very important that you know how to inject insulin properly.  Follow instructions given to you by a nurse, pharmacist, or diabetes educator carefully.

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