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Diabetes Library: Care of Diabetes

Devices to Take Insulin




Insulin jet injectors look like large pens and send a fine spray of insulin through the skin by a high-pressure air mechanism.


Today, most people who take insulin to manage diabetes inject the insulin with a syringe that they place just under the skin. Several other devices to take insulin are currently available, and others are being developed.

Devices currently available

Insulin pens

An insulin pen is a device that looks like a pen with a cartridge that holds 100 to 200 units of insulin. A fine, short needle, similar to the needle on an insulin syringe, is on the tip of the pen. Users turn a dial to select the desired dose of insulin and press a plunger on the end to deliver the insulin just under the skin. Insulin pens can be helpful if you take at least three doses of insulin a day and want the convenience of carrying insulin with you.

Insulin jet injectors

Insulin jet injectors look like large pens and send a fine spray of insulin through the skin by a high-pressure air mechanism. Insulin jet injectors are costly, so try out several models before you purchase one.

Insulin pumps

External insulin pumps are made up of a small dispenser and a narrow tube. The narrow tube is attached to the body with a needle inserted just under the skin near the abdomen. The insulin pump is about the size of a deck of cards, weighs about 4 to 6 ounces, and can be worn on a belt or in a pocket.

The dispenser holds enough insulin for about 2 days. The needle and tubing should be changed every 2 days as well. Users set the pump to give a steady trickle or "basal" amount of insulin continuously throughout the day. Most pumps today have the option to set several basal rates.

Users inject "bolus" doses of insulin (several units at a time) at meals and at times when blood sugar is too high. Frequent blood glucose monitoring is essential to determine insulin dosages and to ensure that insulin is delivered.

Devices under development

Implantable insulin pumps are surgically implanted, usually on the left side of the abdomen. The pump is disk shaped and weighs about 6 to 8 ounces. The pump delivers a basal dose of insulin continuously throughout the day. Users deliver bolus insulin doses with a handheld telemetry unit that instructs the pump to give the specified amount of insulin.

An advantage of this method is that, like insulin produced naturally from the pancreas, the insulin from the pump goes directly to the liver to prevent excess sugar production there.

Insulin patch

The insulin patch, placed on the skin, gives a continuous low dose of insulin. To adjust insulin doses before meals, users can pull off a tab on the patch to release insulin. The problem with the patch is that insulin does not get through the skin easily.

 

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Reprinted with Permission From the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

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