No one wants to have diabetes, but when you live with it, you learn to accept not only its challenges, but its gifts. And one gift of diabetes is how it makes us nonchalant about something that makes other people tremble: We do not run, shrieking, from needles.
An estimated 10 percent of the world’s population suffers from belonephobia – fear of needles – which was formally classified as a mental disorder back in 1997. It’s easy to see why: The white-coated doctor (or nurse) looming with a syringe is one of our earliest fears in childhood. When you’re 4, you don’t care if a shot is going to ultimately help you; all you know is that someone is about to stick a needle into you and it will hurt, and the promise of a super-hero bandage afterward does nothing to alleviate the little rush of fear that accompanies the prospect of pain.
It was very good news in the diabetes world, then, when the insulin pen was introduced in the 1980s, allowing people with diabetes to self-inject the proper dose of insulin without tapping into a primal fear. Sure, technically it’s still a “shot” but an insulin pen significantly minimizes the hassle of managing a syringe and vial of insulin. They’re easy to use, store and carry, and topped with a Timesulin cap, they’re a phenomenally simple way to stay on top of your glucose levels.
With time, using an insulin pen will seem as simple as using an ink pen. Until then, here’s a primer on how to use an insulin pen:
Note: This is not an official guide – just our two cents as members of the diabetes community. Make sure to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
First, wash and sanitize your hands, then decide where you will inject the insulin. Common places include the abdomen (but not within two inches of your belly button), the outer thigh, the back of the upper arm, and the upper buttocks, all places with fatty tissue. (You’ll want to rotate the sites, choose a new place every time.)
Double check the expiration date on the insulin. And this is important: While you should store unopened insulin in the refrigerator, it should be brought to room temperature before you inject.
Next, check the insulin itself. If it’s cloudy, roll the pen with your palms 10 times until the fluid is clear. If it’s still cloudy, or if there are lumps after rolling, you’ll need to get another pen.
Swab the injection site with alcohol.
Remove the pen’s cap, wipe the rubber seal with alcohol, and screw on (or click in, depending on the brand) a new needle. (Note: ALWAYS use a new needle. Don’t ever use an old one)
Next, prime the pen to rid it of air. To do this, turn the knob to 2, and tap. When a drop of insulin appears, you’re ready to proceed.
Select the dose prescribed by your doctor, and dial the pen accordingly.
Remind yourself how awesome you are because you are not afraid of needles (you pity the needle!) and because you know how to do something most people don’t.
Then, pinch a small flap of skin and ease the needle all the way in. Release the skin, push the injection button and hold for a count of 10.
You’re almost done!
Remove the needle, first from the injection site, then from the pen, and dispose of it properly. If there’s insulin remaining, store the pen at room temperature until it’s time for the next dose. (Temperature matters; heat will affect efficacy, and cold will make the injection painful, don’t want that.)
Now you’re done, and you didn’t even need a superhero bandage!