Diabetic patients often take time to get accustomed to their needle size. Needles are described by length and thickness (“gauge”). Some individuals complain about the needle measurements and about getting hurt while trying to inject their medication. So, what's the solution?

In fact, while taking insulin a shorter and thinner needle is more effective in 2 ways –

  • They can’t reach the muscle tissue, and therefore, causes less pain, bruising, or bleeding and increases the possibility of ‘self-injecting’.
  • Insulin that reaches the muscles will be absorbed faster than required and may therefore cause hypoglycemia!

When is insulin needed?

Not that every diabetic patient needs insulin. Diabetes, initially, is approached with treatments like medicines, lifestyle changes, diet control, weight loss exercises, and so on. When all fail to keep the glucose levels of the body within the targeted range, insulin is administered. Moreover, diabetes is a progressive disease and the rate of insulin production by the pancreas may decrease gradually. Such patients need to be on insulin to control their glycemic levels.

Medically speaking, when a patient’s HbA1c is higher than 6-7%, insulin is recommended. Precisely, the ADA (American Diabetes Association) prescribes the level to be 7% or below and the American College of Endocrinology has set the mark at 6.5% and below. HbA1c stands for glycosylated hemoglobin and is a measure of the blood glucose level.

It has often been unfortunately observed that individuals tend to refrain from insulin injection for the following reasons –

  • Fear of the needle or a syringe
  • The idea that insulin is the "last resort"
  • Fear of hypoglycemic attacks

Over the years, diabetes treatment has evolved and today there are insulin pens to help individuals self-inject the drug without much pain and discomfort.

Insulin Pens

Insulin Pens are smart devices that consist of a cartridge, a measurement vial, and a disposable needle. Pens are sensibly more convenient to use than the traditional ‘vial and a syringe’! Moreover, there are ways that make insulin intake via injection less painful. Some of them have been enlisted here…

  • Do not administer cold insulin – insulin is stored in the refrigerator. Before applying it let it warm up to room temperature. Cold insulin is more painful. Taking the drug out of the refrigerator 15 mins ahead of injecting does the job much less painfully!
  • Go for quick penetrations – Don’t be jabbing. Inject quickly and promptly at a 90-degree angle and no changing the direction once it is inside the skin!
  • Allow the alcohol to dry up – Most individuals use alcohol to prepare the injection site. If so, allow the liquid to dry up before you inject your medicine.
  • Finally, do not tense up your muscles while injecting - Relax, take deep abdominal breaths before you are administering the hormone (insulin) to your body!

A word about your needle size

  • Syringe and needle sizes are factors that require some informed decision. They depend upon several factors like how much medicine is to be administered, what is the age of the patient, etc.
  • While syringe capacity is measured in ML or CC. Although Cubic Centimeter is used to measure liquids if syringes are calibrated in cc, 1cc = 1ml.
  • Similarly, needle sizes have a certain measuring unit. Needle packets are labeled with a certain number followed by “G” and then another number. The former (number in front of G) tells the 'gauge' of the needle – the higher this number, the thinner is the needle! The latter (the number following G) tells the length of the needle in inches.
  • A high-gauge needle is used to cater to a small amount of medicine and vice versa. Since larger amounts of medicine need a thicker needle, the lower-gauge ones are used. As for the needle length, often the patient's age is the determining factor. For instance, for children, a shorter needle suffices to penetrate under the skin. An adult needs a bigger one!

Sensibly, thinner needles are more comfortable than the long and thicker ones. The decision about your needle size does not solely depend upon your comfort levels but other factors too; hence, it should be an informed decision!