What is an insulin pen?
An insulin pen is a device for giving insulin shots. It looks like a pen. Both disposable and reusable insulin pens are available. For a reusable pen, you put the insulin cartridge into the pen. Disposable pens already have an insulin cartridge. You can set the dose of insulin with a dial on the outside of the pen. You use the pen to give the insulin shot (injection).
Insulin pens can be used instead of bottles and syringes.
Before their first use, insulin pens or insulin cartridges are stored in the refrigerator. After that, you can store them at room temperature. In general, they expire within a month after you open them. Follow the directions for storing and using the insulin.
How to use an insulin pen
Know which type of insulin pen you're using.
Insulin pens are either reusable or disposable. For a reusable pen, you put the insulin cartridge into the pen. Disposable pens already have an insulin cartridge.
Before using cloudy insulin, such as NPH and premixed insulin, gently roll the pen between your palms 10 times. Then tip the pen up and down 10 times. Do not shake the pen. The insulin should look milky white.
Attach the needle to the insulin pen.
Follow the directions for how to screw a new needle onto your pen.
Remove the outer cap from the needle. Keep this outer cap. You will use it later to safely dispose of the needle.
Remove the inner cover from the needle. Be careful not to prick yourself.
Prime the needle.
Before each shot, prime the needle. Priming removes air from the needle and helps make sure you're getting the right dose.
Turn the dose knob to 2 units or to the amount that your pen's manufacturer recommends.
Hold your pen with the needle pointing up. Tap the cartridge holder gently to move any air bubbles to the top. Push the injection button all the way in. Watch for a stream or drop of insulin to come out of the needle. If it doesn't, repeat this step.
Pick a spot.
Make sure the area of skin where you will give the shot is clean. If you use alcohol to clean the skin before you give the injection, let it dry.
Use a different spot each time you inject insulin. Using the same spot every time can cause bumps or pits to form in your skin.
For example, inject your insulin above your belly button. Then the next time use your upper thigh, and then the next time inject below your belly button.
Put it in.
Turn the dose knob to the number of units of insulin that you need to inject. Push the needle into your skin. Most people can inject using a 90-degree angle and without pinching the skin.
Adults and children who are very lean and people who use longer needles may need to pinch the skin to avoid injecting into muscle.
Inject and wait.
Put your thumb on the injection button, and push it in until it stops. Keep the pen in your skin. Hold the dose knob in for 10 seconds (or to the number that the manufacturer recommends). Then pull the needle out of your skin. Do not rub the area.
Recap the insulin pen.
Put only the outer cap back over the needle. The thin, inner cover is harder to put back on, and you may stick yourself.
Throw the needle away.
After covering the needle with the outer cap, unscrew the needle. Throw the needle away in a sharps container or other solid plastic container. You can get a sharps container at your drugstore.
Don't share insulin pens with anyone else who uses insulin. Even when the needle is changed, an insulin pen can carry bacteria or blood that can make another person sick.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter I100 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About How to Use an Insulin Pen".
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & David C.W. Lau MD, PhD, FRCPC - Endocrinology & Heather Quinn MD - Family Medicine