There are many options for injecting insulin. Today's insulin syringes are easy to use and cause less pain than older syringes. In fact, many people with diabetes say that insulin injections are less painful than blood sugar checks.
In contrast to the syringe your grandparent or parent may have used to administer insulin, those available today are smaller, lighter, and disposable. They commonly come in different sizes of 30, 50, or 100 units. You can use them with most types of insulin. If you need a combination of different types, the mixing can be done inside the syringe. Always check with your doctor first before mixing insulin. Some types cannot be mixed together.
Syringe needles come in different lengths and widths (gauges). You can get needles that are shorter and thinner to make injections more comfortable. If you switch from a thicker to a thinner needle, be sure to check your blood sugar (glucose) often. Needle width can affect how much insulin you absorb. One drawback to using a very thin needle is that it may bend or break off inside your skin.
How do you use an insulin syringe?
These are the steps for administering insulin from a syringe. You should have your doctor or diabetes educator show you these techniques. He or she can help you until you are comfortable giving yourself the injection.
- Wash your hands and the injection site with soap and water. Wipe off the top of the insulin vial with alcohol.
- Roll the insulin vial between your hands to mix it. Do not do this if it is rapid- or short-acting insulin. Don't shake the vial.
- Pull the plunger on the syringe back to draw in the same units of air as the units of insulin you need. Place the needle in the vial and then press the plunger to push the air into the vial.
- With the needle still inside the vial, turn the vial upside down and draw slightly more than the number of units of insulin you need into the syringe.
- Check for air bubbles in the syringe while the needle is still in the vial. Tap the side of the upright syringe to get rid of them. Push back any air and the extra insulin back into the vial. Remove the syringe from the vial.
- Check to be sure that you now have the correct number of units of insulin in the syringe and that there are no more air bubbles.
- Choose the injection site and gently pinch about an inch of skin.
- Holding the syringe like a pencil, gently stick the needle into the skin at the angle recommended by your doctor or diabetes educator.
- Press in the plunger with a slow, even motion.
- When all of the insulin is out of the syringe, pull out the needle at the same angle and gently press the skin for a few seconds.
Syringe use, made easy
If you have vision or coordination problems, you may need some help measuring, drawing, and/or injecting insulin. Fortunately, there are several types of injection aids available, including:
- Nonvisual insulin measuring tools. These devices click with each addition of an insulin unit.
- Needle guides and vial stabilizers. These tools make it easier to hold the vial and draw insulin into the syringe.
- Syringe magnifiers. A magnifier enlarges the unit markings on the syringe so you can read them more easily.
- Prefilled syringes. These entirely eliminate the need to measure and draw insulin into the syringe entirely.
- Insertion aids. Spring-loaded syringe holders, many with push-buttons that trigger the plunger, help you inject insulin into the skin.
Work with your doctor or diabetes educator to find the syringe, needles, and injection aids that are right for you. Many alternatives to syringes are available for people with diabetes, such as insulin pumps, infusers, and jet injectors. Ask your doctor about these options.