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Insulin Delivery Systems: An Overview

Insulin Pens

An insulin pen works much like a syringe, but it looks like the type of pen you use to write. Insulin pens come in disposable and reusable versions.

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

Pros:

Ease and convenience.  To use an insulin pen, 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. Insulin pens have a handy memory feature that 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) and many insurance companies won't cover the cost.

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

Insulin Pump

An insulin pump is a device that's about the size as 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 has concluded 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 that 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 of insulin throughout the day. The pump delivers insulin to you automatically. You can also eat whenever you choose.

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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