Injecting Insulin for Diabetes

Unfortunately insulin cannot be given in the tablet form, as it is destroyed by stomach acid. The main way of administering insulin is via pen injection, however there are a number of other options.

Insulin Infusion Pump

The so called CSII (continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion) pump is about the same size as a mobile phone and gets strapped around your waist on a belt. It has a digital display and aims to keep your blood sugar level constant throughout the day. It does this by administering different concentrations of insulin through a catheter into the abdominal fat after the device has been programmed. During the day the pump releases insulin at a low level to maintain the basal insulin level. Before meals you press a button on the pump which releases a large dose of insulin to help store the glucose from food.

It is suggested that the pump gives better control than frequent injections and is better for young children and adolescents who don’t want to inject. The pump also helps to prevent the large increase in blood glucose that occurs when you wake in the morning.

Getting used to the pump can take a while, as it will require an initial period of testing the concentrations of insulin delivered. Throughout this period regular blood glucose tests will be required to check the doses are ok. Even though the pumps are more expensive than insulin injections they offer better control of your blood glucose levels. Problems with pumps include them becoming blocked, skin infections and ketoacidosis.

Insulin Pens

Insulin pens provide a safe and effective way to inject your insulin without posing too many problems. They comprise a small needle that is linked to a cartridge filled with insulin, which can be twisted to change the dose of insulin delivered. This is advantageous as it allows you to personally select the dose depending on the time of day, meal size etc.

Insulin Aerosol

The most recent development in insulin delivery techniques is the production of an insulin aerosol. Licensed by the FDA in 2006, the aerosol allows you to inhale the insulin instead of having to inject it. The most common inhaler is called Exubera and is unfortunately only licensed for use in adults. It is contraindicated (not recommended) if you smoke, or have any lung problems such as asthma or bronchitis. Some studies have suggested that less than 10% of the inhaled dose gets into the blood stream.

Other recent studies have looked into the possibility of delivering insulin into the blood by spraying an insulin solution onto your skin. This avenue of research is currently ongoing.

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