Being a diabetic creates a life that a follows different sets of rules than non-diabetics. Management of blood glucose is an everyday event that can lead to catastrophic and even deadly outcomes if not properly addressed. Insulin is the hormone that helps the body use or store the blood glucose it gets from food. There are different types of systems for insulin delivery with each one having its own advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to determine the option that is most suitable for specific lifestyles.
Needle and Syringe
The most common form of insulin delivery for diabetics is by injection using either a needle and syringe or an insulin pen. Insulin injection also requires less education and training than the use of an insulin pump.
The most common and affordable insulin delivery is in the form of direct subcutaneous injections using a needle and syringe. The greatest benefit of this delivery system is the cost savings and the fact that insurances will provide coverage compared to other delivery systems like an insulin pen or pump.
The biggest difficulty however is that insulin delivery via needle and syringe is a very involved process taking multiple steps. It is also performed manually which can lead to possible errors; it’s up to the patient to make sure the proper dose is given.
Insulin pens have become more popular around the world with 95% of insulin-treated patients in Europe, Asia, Australia, and Scandinavia using pens. There are two different types of pen systems: durable and prefilled.
A durable pen has an insulin cartridge that can be replaced. Once the insulin cartridge is empty, the cartridge is disposed of and replaced with a new one. Prefilled insulin pens are also known as disposable insulin pens because they can be thrown away after use. The pen is prefilled with insulin and once the cartridge becomes empty, the entire system including pen and cartridge is discarded.
Insulin pens are very easy to use and one of the big advantages for using them is its ability to adjust the amount of units needed. Insulin pens feature an adjustable knob or dial – at the end of the pen opposite the needle – that can be calibrated to deliver variable units of insulin. Other advantages of insulin pens are the convenience of transportation, compared to a traditional vial and syringe. Insulin pens also provide more accurate dosages and are easier to use for patients that have motor skills or visual impairments.
Although they are easy to use and convenient to transport, insulin pens are usually more expensive than the traditional vial and syringe method and insurance coverage for insulin pens vary widely in the United States. It is also not possible to mix two different types of insulin (short acting and long acting) with a pen.
Injection of insulin via needle and syringe or by pen is the most common insulin delivery system and both take little education compared to more complicated delivery systems like an insulin pump. In the next segment, the discussion will be in regards to delivery of insulin using a pump.