What are Insulin Pens and Which One Do I Choose? 

If you have diabetes, insulin may be a key part of your diabetes treatment plan and the most common insulin…(continue reading)

If you have diabetes, insulin may be a key part of your diabetes treatment plan and the most common insulin delivery methods include receiving an injection of insulin with a syringe, insulin pen, or using an insulin pump. An insulin pen is a device that delivers doses of insulin under the skin and it looks like a large ballpoint pen that has a needle on one end. There are many different types of insulin pens available, so it can be confusing to know which one is right for you. In this article, we will discuss the different types of insulin pens and help you choose the right one for your needs.

What is an insulin pen?

When you have type 1 diabetes, your pancreas stops making insulin so you need to take insulin regularly from either a syringe injection, insulin pump, inhaler, or insulin pen. Insulin pens are insulin delivery systems that are used to inject insulin into the body and can be more convenient than an insulin injection from a syringe. They are small, portable, easy to use, and come in different sizes, shapes, and colors. Some insulin pens have a built-in needle while others have a disposable needle that must be attached before each use. Insulin pens can deliver insulin in two ways, through an insulin pen cartridge or a prefilled insulin pen, and can deliver .5 units of insulin to up to 80 insulin units in one dose. The way they deliver insulin is through a needle at the end just like a syringe; however, there are some differences between the two that we will detail below. If you have type 2 diabetes, you may need to supplement your insulin with insulin therapy if diet and exercise do not manage your blood glucose levels although this will be determined by your doctor.

How to use an Insulin Pen – Mayo Clinic

What are the advantages of an insulin pen?

As described above, insulin pens are not the only insulin delivery system you can use as there are also syringes and insulin pumps. The benefits of using an insulin pen over an insulin pump or syringe follow. 

Advantages of an insulin pen over a syringe

Insulin pens are much smaller and more portable than syringes and also have the medicine preloaded into the delivery mechanism. The needles are easy to use and can be disposable by twisting or snapping them on and off once you are done using them and need to dispose of them. Some of the pens are disposable while others use an insulin cartridge system and need to be reloaded with a new cartridge after using them. The pens are usually color-coded too which makes it easier to know which type of insulin and how much insulin you will be receiving from them. Some pens are now “smart insulin pens” which easily connect to an app on your phone to allow you to monitor your blood sugar levels and remind you of when to take your next insulin dose.

Advantages of insulin pens over an insulin pump

The main advantage of using an insulin pen over an insulin pump is that insulin pens do not require as much maintenance as an insulin pump requires. You also have the option of taking a break from your insulin pump therapy and just using an insulin pen for a while if you so choose. Insulin pumps can also be quite expensive and may not be covered by your insurance provider while insulin pens usually are covered. If you have type 1 diabetes, you may need to use an insulin pump anyway as determined by your doctor but if you have type 2 diabetes, using an insulin pen may be a better option for you.

What are the disadvantages of using an insulin pen?

Despite the advantages, there are some disadvantages too when using an insulin pen over a syringe or insulin pump. 

Disadvantages of an insulin pen over a syringe

The insulin pen does have some disadvantages over using a syringe. The number one disadvantage of insulin pens is that they tend to be more expensive than syringes so talk to your insurance company about what coverage they may provide for the pens and discuss with your doctor the best diabetes management plan for you. Also, if you are not comfortable with needles, then insulin pens may not be the best option as they still require you to inject insulin into your body.

Disadvantages of insulin pens over an insulin pump

The disadvantage of insulin pens over insulin pumps is that insulin pens do not deliver insulin as constantly as insulin pumps can which means that you may need to check your blood sugar levels more often if you are using an insulin pen rather than an insulin pump. Insulin pumps deliver a more accurate dose too. You also may have to inject insulin more often with an insulin pen which some people may not like. Insulin pumps also tend to be smaller and more discreet than insulin pens so if you are looking for a more discreet option, an insulin pump may be better for you.

What are the different kinds of insulin pens?

There are two main types of insulin pens and they include:

Disposable insulin pens

These insulin pens are pre-filled with insulin and are designed to be used once and then thrown away. They tend to be more expensive than the other types of insulin pens but they are also the most convenient as you do not have to worry about reloading them with insulin.

Reusable insulin pens

These insulin pens come with an insulin cartridge that needs to be inserted into the pen and then replaced when it is empty. They are less expensive than disposable insulin pens but more expensive than syringes.

Which insulin pen is the best for me?

The insulin pen you choose should be based on your needs and preferences. If you want the most convenience, then a disposable insulin pen may be the best option for you. If you are looking for a more affordable option, then a reusable insulin pen may be the better choice. Consult with your doctor about which insulin pen they think would be best.

What are the different types of needles for my pen?

Insulin pen needles can come in a variety of different lengths and thicknesses, which is referred to as the gauge. Shorter needles are usually used for insulin pens and will work for most people while longer needles are often used for syringes. A shorter needle makes it less likely to hit muscle when injecting your insulin, which is ideal as it can cause pain. Typically, you would want a higher gauge, which means the needle is thinner, to help avoid any pain when injecting your medication although thicker needles can deliver a larger dose of insulin administered faster.

How do I store my insulin pen?

Insulin pens can be stored in a cool, dry place. Insulin pens that are prefilled with insulin can be kept at room temperature until the expiration date on the pen. Once you start using the insulin pen, you will need to store it in the refrigerator. Reusable insulin pens can also be stored in a cool, dry place and insulin cartridges will need to be stored in the refrigerator once they are opened. Avoid storing your insulin in direct sunlight and any extreme temperatures or temperature fluctuations. Be careful when injecting insulin to follow the proper injection technique, which is to hold the pen at a 90-degree angle to your body and not pinch the skin. 

Summary

Insulin pens are a type of insulin delivery device that can help you manage your diabetes. They do have some advantages and disadvantages over other insulin delivery methods such as syringes and insulin pumps and you need to consult your doctor to determine the best method for you. The type of insulin pen you choose should be based on your needs and preferences and what you can afford with your insurance coverage. If you have any more questions, please talk to your doctor, diabetes care team, or healthcare provider to determine the best way to manage your diabetes and diabetes medication delivery system for you.

References and Sources:

Drugs.com

Cleveland Clinic 

Fact Checked and Editorial Process

Diabetic.org is devoted to producing expert and accurate articles and information for our readers by hiring experts, journalists, medical professionals, and our growing Diabetic.org community. We encourage you to read more about our content, editing, and fact checking methods here. This was fact checked by Jacqueline Hensler and medically reviewed by Dr. Angel Rivera. 

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