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Types of Insulin Delivery Systems

Insulin Pens

These work much like a syringe, but they look like a pen you use to write. They come in disposable and reusable versions.

Disposable pens come pre-filled with insulin. Reusable models use a cartridge filled with insulin.

Pros:

Ease and convenience. To use, you just dial up the insulin dose on the pen. Then you press a plunger at one end to inject the insulin through a needle at the other end.

Memory storage. The memory feature will remind you how much insulin you took and when you took it.

Cons:

Expense. Insulin pens cost slightly more than syringes (about $30 - $40 a pen). Many insurance companies won't cover the cost.

Lack of options. Some types of insulin aren't available in pen form.

Insulin Pump

This device is about the size of a pager. You wear it on your belt or in a pocket. It delivers a steady stream of insulin to your body 24 hours a day through a needle attached to a flexible plastic tube. Whenever you eat, you press a button on the pump to give yourself an extra boost of insulin, called a bolus.

The pump is an option for people with type 1 diabetes who haven't reached their target blood sugar level using other delivery methods. Also, one large study concluded that the insulin pump is a safe and valuable treatment option for those with poorly controlled blood sugar, despite multiple daily insulin injections. It's also a good option for people with diabetes who have very active lifestyles.

Pros:

Steady insulin release. "The pump's advantages are linked to its very nature, which is to try to mimic the way the body makes insulin -- a small amount all the time and a boost at mealtimes," Fonseca says.

Pumps are so efficient that you can use less insulin than you would with a syringe or pen.

Easy to use. When you use a pump, you won't have to give yourself injections throughout the day. The pump delivers insulin to you automatically. You can also eat whenever you choose.

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