Insulin pens do make a diabetic's life easier. If you inject insulin, here are some facts about the pens you should know.
For convenience a prefilled pen makes injecting insulin simpler.
There is no fumbling with tiny vials. You do not have to try to see the numbers on a small needle either.
If you are taking a rapid-acting as well as long-acting insulin for your type 2 diabetic treatment, you are less likely to give yourself the wrong one.
Because insulin vials look a lot alike, it can be easy to make a mistake.
I know. I injected rapid-acting instead of Lantus one night and had to sit up for hours drinking orange juice and checking my blood sugar. It was scary.
Your insulin pen comes to you prefilled with the same amount of insulin you get in a vial. It has a dial you can turn to the proper dose for an injection.
You will get a prescription for the throwaway injection needles you will use, and they come in several sizes from regular length to extremely short.
The shorter the needle, the less pain, but it is up to you which size you use.
Open the sterile package, screw the needle onto your pen, use it and throw it away. Do not reuse them.
Because pens have insulin inside them, they must be stored in the refrigerator until you need them. But once a pen is opened you can keep it at room temperature.
Insulin pens are stored in a refrigerator at 45-55 degrees. Freezing them ruins the insulin, so do not use freezer packs when you travel with insulin.
The special cold packs that do not freeze are perfect for keeping insulin at the right temperature while you travel.
The pen you have opened can be kept at room temperature for 30 days before it must be thrown away.
Room temperature insulin is less painful to inject, so take a new pen out of the refrigerator a few hours before you start using it.
It is important to keep your pen away from any heat source.
If you are traveling or carry your pen in a pocket it is good idea to get a cooling wallet.
This ingenious little carrier has packets of crystals that are activated by running cold water on them.
As the water in the crystals evaporates it keeps the insulin at room temperature for over two days at a time.
When your doctor sends you to a diabetic care nurse for instructions on how to use your insulin pen, please go.
Having someone demonstrate the use of the pen is much better than trying to figure it out from the pamphlet that comes with the pen.
You cannot inject insulin in the same place over and over. You need to rotate sites over your abdomen.
Serious problems develop when the same site is used too many times.
Since you are injecting into the fat layer under your skin, areas of hardness build up, and the insulin cannot get out.
The area could also get infected. So use a system. The diabetic care nurse has some ideas that will help.
You can inject into your thigh, hip or upper arm too, but the insulin takes longer to become active.
You will need to use your glucose monitor often while you are using insulin. Monitoring is the only way to know you are giving yourself the amount you need.
If you feel a low sugar attack (hypoglycemia) coming on, your monitor will help you know if you have treated it properly.
Use a new needle each time you inject, and always prime a new pen first to make sure you get all the insulin you are supposed to be injecting.
Do not get in a hurry. You must hold the pen on the injection site to the count of ten to make sure the pen injects all the insulin.
You might see a drop of blood at your injection site. It means you found one of the tiny capillaries that run through the fat layer under your skin.
Do not worry about this, unless it happens every time you inject with your insulin pen.
It could be your technique, so check with your doctor.
The problem may be that you are injecting in the same place over and over. Or you could try using the new shorter and thinner needles.
It takes time to learn to use an insulin pen, so be patient as you learn the steps.
It will become second nature if you do not ever skip a step. Let it become routine. That is how nurses do it.
Skipping steps means you are getting sloppy. Since you are in charge of your diabetes medicine and taking care of a serious condition, it is important to be careful.
Because you give injections several times a day, you may forget whether or not you gave a dose.
That makes keeping a record absolutely necessary. You can use a checklist, and it also helps to keep the used needles for the day.
Then you can count them before disposing of them at night. Whatever you do, never depend on your memory alone.
If diabetes care gets overwhelming, please ask for help. Reach out.
More than half of diabetics do not get the care they need because of cost. But here are things you can do to help with the cost of diabetic medications.
You can do this, but you will always need help, so do not try to do it alone.