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Insulin Delivery Devices - Your Options

Options for Getting Your Daily Insulin


Updated April 08, 2011

Insulin Delivery Devices - Your Options

Insulin pump


Insulin delivery devices are a fixture for those with type 1 diabetes. You need to get daily doses of insulin to live. Fortunately, there are several ways you can get the necessary insulin your body needs to function properly. Here is an overview of your options:


Since the discovery of insulin in 1922, and for many years thereafter, the only way people with type 1 could get their insulin was to inject it with a syringe. Despite the fact that there are other ways to get insulin, this is still the most popular insulin injection device. Fortunately, thinner and shorter needles have been developed in recent years, making the injection less painful.

Insulin Pens

Insulin pens are similar to a syringe in that they have a needle at the tip of the pen. But, instead of manually drawing up the insulin from a separate vial, the pen has the vial of insulin built in. You simply turn a dial to the desired dose, insert the needle and press a plunger to inject the insulin. You replace the needle before each injection and continue to use the same pen until you’ve used all the insulin in the vial. You can buy pens with replaceable cartridges or prefilled pens that you discard after using. Most pens will dose to full or half units. Many people find insulin pens a convenient alternative to syringes.

Insulin Pump

An insulin pump is a small device that delivers a continuous flow of insulin to the body through a short tube with a needle at the endpoint that is inserted under the skin, usually in the abdomen. Insulin can also be manually delivered from the pump in larger amounts to cover meals or when additional insulin is needed. Insulin pumps run on batteries, are about the size of a small cell phone and are either clipped to a belt or carried in a pocket. Newer technology eliminates the tubing and attaches the pump directly to the skin.

Though studies of people using insulin pumps have shown improved glucose management outcomes, an insulin pump still requires close attention to management. Consider the pros and cons of an insulin pump before choosing this option.

Jet Injector

Instead of a needle, a jet injector uses a handheld device that contains high pressure to send a fine spray of insulin through the skin. It was developed to be less painful than syringe delivery. But many who have used this option find it more painful. This is the least-used delivery method of those mentioned in part because of the discomfort and also because it is rarely covered by insurance.

The best option is the one you are most comfortable with and will use consistently to effectively manage your blood glucose.


Alternative Insulin Delivery Devices. Islets of Hope. Accessed January 4, 2009. http://www.isletsofhope.com/diabetes/treatment/insulin_devices_1.html

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