Diabetes: Type 1: Insulin Pen

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What is an Insulin Pen?


An insulin pen is effectively a syringe and vial combined into one. The pen device is basically the vial, and on the end of it is an area where a needle is attached each time it is to be used. The device looks like a very large pen and it can be carried in a pocket or in a purse or a bag of some sort.


The insulin can come in a disposable or a non-disposable type of pen, depending on what is best for the user. The difference is that in a disposable insulin pen, the entire pen itself is discarded, whereas a refillable pen or reusable pen, the inside of the pen, the cartridge that contains the insulin is removed and discarded after use. After the cartridge has been discarded, a new cartridge containing insulin can replace it.


The insulin cartridge itself holds 300 units of insulin, and most people get a number of days’ worth or even a week’s worth of insulin uses out of one pen device or cartridge.


Insulin pens require an individual insulin pen needle to be screwed on and removed with each insulin injection. One should make sure to use a fresh sterile needle with each use.




The potential advantages of using an insulin pen primarily relate to the convenience and discretion. Many individuals find it quite easy to simply lift up a shirt and give an injection discretely without anyone seeing what they’re doing. It also takes up less space in a pocketbook or bag than carrying several syringes and vials.


Because an insulin pen requires a very short, small needle, some individuals feel that insulin pens are less painful.




The potential disadvantages of an insulin pen to consider would be if a person doesn’t use it properly, he can deliver less insulin than he should. As such, proper training is very important. Also, if a person leaves the needle on the top, some leakage can occur, and this can also allow bacteria to get into the insulin and cause it to become contaminated.


If a person requires two different types or forms of insulin, for example a long-acting and a rapid-acting, mealtime insulin, with a pen system, that person would actually need to take two separate shots. With the syringe and vial method, however, a person can draw one type of insulin into the syringe and may be able to mix the second type in that very same syringe; thereby giving only one injection. It’s important to know not all types of insulin can be mixed in the same syringe so that is something that must be discussed with a physician before being attempted.