MANILA, Philippines – Many people with diabetes require insulin therapy to maintain optimal blood glucose control and prevent complications. Insulin is recognized as one of the most effective treatments for diabetes mellitus. However, one of the greatest difficulties facing individuals with diabetes who need to inject insulin is the social stigma associated with insulin shots.
Use of needles and syringes seem to have a negative connotation, and diabetics are embarrassed or fearful about being thought of as drug addicts when they inject themselves in public. Other barriers to injecting insulin are the fear of needles and the resulting pain from using them.
The good news is that insulin needles today are smaller and thinner than ever before, making injections virtually painless. Moreover, an insulin delivery device called an insulin pen is now available and has made injecting not only less painful but more convenient, more discrete and more accurate than syringes. In many surveys, insulin users prefer pens rather than syringes due to greater social acceptability, ease of use, accuracy, convenience, reduction of needle phobia and even cost-effectiveness.
Insulin pens provide several advantages. They are easier to carry around than traditional vial and syringe, making them ideal for patients who go to school, work in an office or travel. Insulin pens can be used for most types of insulin. They provide more accurate, repeated dosages and are easier to use for patients with visual or fine motor skills impairments.
Unlike conventional syringes, insulin pens result in less injection pain because they do not require drawing insulin from a vial, which can dull the needle prior to its insertion into the skin. For some people, insulin pens are less scary than syringes. They are less time-consuming to use than syringes. Because they look like a regular writing pen, insulin pens are more discrete to use.
Introduced in 1985 as NovoPen by the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, the insulin pen consists of a disposable needle, an insulin cartridge and a dial to measure the insulin dose to be administered. There are two insulin pen systems. A durable pen uses a replaceable insulin cartridge, which is disposed after use and replaced with a new cartridge. A prefilled pen comes with prefilled insulin; when the insulin cartridge is empty, the entire unit is discarded.
The following are just some key points in using an insulin pen. Once you have decided to use an insulin pen, your doctor will give you detailed instructions on its proper use.
Wash your hands before injecting insulin. Disinfect the injection site with a cotton ball moistened with alcohol. Insulin pens administer an accurately calibrated dose of insulin subcutaneously, i.e., into the fatty tissue below the skin. Recommended injection sites include the abdomen, parts of the buttocks and thigh areas. The insulin shot must be administered in a different site each time. Try to administer the insulin shot at least an inch from the last injection site, any scars and your navel.
If you are a diabetic using insulin, ask your doctor about these insulin pens.
CONTEST: What pharmaceutical company introduced the insulin pen in 1985? E-mail your answer to email@example.com and get the chance to win a prize! Congratulations to Mary Aranas! Your correct answer to the question in the July 27, 2013 column was chosen as this week’s winner in the Diabetes Trivia Contest. You will receive an e-mail on how to claim your prize.
Dr. Cecile A. Jimeno is an endocrinologist and a diabetes expert. She is the president of the Philippine Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism (PSEM). The “Changing Diabetes” column commemorates the 92nd anniversary of insulin’s discovery. It aims to increase awareness on diabetes prevention, diagnosis and management. Novo Nordisk supports “Changing Diabetes.” Headquartered in Denmark, Novo Nordisk is a global healthcare company with 90 years of innovation and leadership in diabetes care. For questions or comments, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.