More options than ever to consider
One of the most important decisions you will make, as you learn to manage your Type 1 diabetes, is how you want to go about administering your insulin.
Once upon a time, there wasn’t much personal choice in the matter. You used a single-use syringe and there was only one kind of insulin available. But times have changed and today, there are a few more options to consider, including the pump and the pen.
I’ve used them all.
A syringe is used to inject long-acting insulin (basal) once or twice a day drawn up from a vial, followed by short-acting insulin injections at mealtimes (bolus) or when needed (there are some insulins that can be combined and injected at the same time).
An insulin pump works by delivering short-acting insulin all day long through an infusion set inserted under your skin.
Pumps are programmable, allowing you to manage the amount of insulin for different times of the day and for meals, etc. You can program for additional insulin when needed (maybe to cover a few extra carbs in your dinner, or just when you have higher than expected glucose levels). Some people find that making it this convenient to correct their blood sugar level means they’re more apt to do it.
However, one needs to be comfortable with the idea of having ‘something’ tethered to your body twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It’s the pressing of buttons versus pulling out a vial and a syringe (or pulling out a pen and dialing in the dosage).
Insulin pens combine the syringe and insulin into a single delivery device that’s even more portable and less obvious than pumps.
These devices look like large marking pens. Reusable pens come with disposable cartridges that contain up to 300 units of insulin. There are disposable ones, too, that carry the same amount, but you throw the pen out when the insulin is gone. Normally you can buy a package of five at a time.
I like the pen but it can be a bit pricey and it so happens my insurance doesn’t cover it. Certainly, when you’re trying to decide what is right for you, cost plays a role.
Which one? How to choose.
Find the delivery device that works for you and that you are comfortable using. Shop around and compare. And remember that advances are being made all the time. In today’s Internet age, it’s easy enough to keep yourself up to date with everything that’s available to help you manage your diabetes.
Once you determine which features are important to you, do your homework:
- Visit the manufacturers’ websites
- Read online reviews from other users
- Talk to people in your support group, family, or friends who might also be living with diabetes
- Reference Diabetes Forecast, the bimonthly magazine from the American Diabetes Association
- Consult your own medical team – always a great resource
In any event, whether you use a syringe, a pump, or a pen, the bottom line is that these are just one of the tools to help you with managing your diabetes. They won’t manage your blood sugar for you. The management is still up to you. There are no shortcuts.