Insulin pens are common in the United Kingdom, and are generally characterised by a different shape and the fact that they use an insulin cartridge as opposed to a vial.
Some insulin pens use replaceable cartridges, and others use non-replaceable cartridges and must be disposed of after being used.
Most insulin pens use replaceable insulin pen needles, which have become extremely short and thin.
The replaceable cartridges for insulin pens come in 3 and 1 ½ ml sizes, although 3 is more common and has become dominant. Prefilled insulin pens are disposed of when the insulin within the cartridge is used up. Prefilled pens are often marketed for type 2 diabetics who need to use insulin.
Browse through our list of insulin pen reviews. You can also buy the insulin pens from the Diabetes Shop. Simply click on an insulin pen name to read the guide.
How do I use an insulin pen to treat my diabetes?
Using a pen is a relatively easy process. Some pens require gentle shaking before use. Once the cartridge is loaded, screw on a needle and prime the pen to clear air. Then dial in the exact dose that you require to deliver the insulin to the body.
What is good about insulin pens as opposed to syringes?
Insulin pens are very easy to use. They are great for young diabetics who need to deliver insulin at school. Furthermore, many diabetics find insulin pens almost painless. They are also portable and discreet, as well as not being as time-consuming as syringes. An accurate dose can be pre-set on the dosage dial, which can be useful for diabetes sufferers who also have impaired vision.
Why might I not like insulin pens?
Insulin pens are not right for 100% of diabetes patients. Insulin in pens and cartridges is generally more expensive than bottled insulin and syringes. When pens are used a small quantity of insulin is wasted, making the process less economical.
Not all types of insulin are available to be used in insulin pen cartridges at this stage. Furthermore, insulin pens do not let you mix two different types of insulin, meaning in some cases two separate injections will need to be administered.
Can I leave the needle on and take my insulin pen around with it ready to use?
Absolutely not. This could influence the sterility of the needle, and alter the dose of insulin administered when you come to use the pen. Keep pens and needles separate until you are ready to inject, and remove the needle immediately after use.
How do I choose the right insulin pen for my diabetes?
There are numerous different brands and models of insulin pens available in the UK market. As a diabetic working with your healthcare team to establish what insulin pen to choose, the following factors are worth considering.
- What types of insulin are available for the pen (may be limited.)
- How many units the pen can hold when full, and how large a dose can be injected.
- The adjustment method of the pen, and how finely this can be tuned
- This size of the numbers on the pen, and in cases with impaired vision whether they are magnified.
- How hard it is to operate the pen.
- How the pen indicates how much insulin is left within the barrel.