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What Ruins an Insulin Pen?

· Insulin,Type 1 Diabetes,Diabetes,Diabetes Solutions

The only available treatment for type 1 diabetes – aka insulin dependent diabetes – today, is insulin. Some type 2 diabetics may also rely on insulin in some advanced cases. There are many types of insulin in the market, each with a different effect, used depending on the patients’ needs and lifestyle, and they’re delivered either using the conventional vitals and syringes or insulin pens.

Insulin delivery through pens was first introduced in 1985. Insulin pens were still inconvenient back then, but today they’re more accurate, virtually painless and a lot easier to use. They too, come in different types and modes of action. You can find everything you need to know about insulin pens here. However, an insulin pen can still get damaged and ineffective in case it wasn’t handled well.

Insulin pens are mostly used by diabetic teens, university students or adults on the go and it’s important to learn about the proper way to use and store them. All types of insulin are affected mainly by exposure to light, storage temperature and duration of usage.  

  • Light:

Since the hormone insulin is a protein, its exposure to light (or sunlight) might lead to photodegradation and make it ineffective, this is why insulin pens’ cap is opaque. In order to avoid this, always keep your insulin pen away from sunlight and make sure the cap is always on and closed well.

  • Temperature and Time:

Extreme temperatures make insulin less effective and can totally ruin it sometimes.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you must keep your unopened insulin pens stored in a refrigerator at approximately 2°C to 7°C (36°F to 46°F) until expiry date for optimal conservation, while opened and unopened insulin pens may be left unrefrigerated at a temperature between 15°C and 30°C (59°F and 86°F) for up to 28 days maximum.

Never put an insulin pen in the freezer, and make sure to separate it from your cellphone or computer if it’s in your pocket or bag to avoid direct contact with heat.

  • Contamination and Air Bubbles:

Insulin can also get contaminated when the needle cartridge have been used for too long. Optimally, the needle cartridge of the insulin pen must be discarded after each use and replaced with a new one upon the next use, in order to avoid bacterial growth and contamination of insulin and the formation of air bubbles inside, which might reduce the efficacy of insulin.

Insulin pens that have been exposed to direct sunlight or extreme temperatures for a long time, have been opened for more than 28 days or that are expired, are most likely to lose their potency to lower blood glucose levels and better be discarded.

-- Written by Hiba Ayoubi

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