Insulin can help control your blood sugar levels if lifestyle changes and oral diabetes medications haven’t been enough. Yet taking insulin is a little more complicated than simply giving yourself a shot a couple of times a day. It takes some work to know how much insulin you need and when to administer it.
These devices can help you stay on track with your insulin dosing and delivery to help you better manage your type 2 diabetes.
A blood glucose meter is an essential tool if you have type 2 diabetes, especially if you take insulin. Measuring your blood sugar level a few times a day can show how well your insulin is controlling your diabetes, and if you need to adjust the amount or timing of your doses.
A blood glucose meter measures glucose in a small amount of your blood. First, you use a lancet or other sharp device to prick your finger. Then you place a drop of blood on the test strip and insert it into the machine. The meter will tell you what your blood sugar is so you can see whether your blood sugar is too low or too high.
Some blood glucose meters can download results to your computer and share them with your doctor. Your doctor can review your blood sugar readings over time and use the results to make any necessary changes to your insulin plan. It’s especially helpful to note the time you check your blood sugar, and if you’ve eaten and when.
A continuous glucose meter works like a regular glucose meter, but it’s automatic, so you don’t have to prick your finger as often. However, you still have to prick your finger to calibrate the machine on some continuous glucose monitoring systems. These monitors give you an overview of your blood sugar levels throughout the day and night to help you fine-tune your treatment.
A tiny sensor placed under the skin of your belly or arm measures the blood sugar levels in fluid around your skin cells. A transmitter that’s connected to the sensor sends the data on your blood sugar levels to a receiver, which stores and displays that information so you can share it with your doctor. Some continuous glucose monitors connect or display the information into a pump that delivers insulin.
Although continuous blood glucose monitoring is particularly helpful in people with type 1 diabetes, it’s benefits are less clear when it comes to people with type 2 diabetes.
A syringe is the most commonly used method for delivering insulin. It’s a hollow plastic tube with a plunger at one end and a needle at the other end. Syringes come in different sizes, based on how much insulin you need. The needles also come in various lengths and widths.
An insulin pen looks a lot like a pen you use to write with, but instead of ink, it contains insulin. The pen is an alternative to the syringe for administering insulin. If you’re not a fan of syringes, an insulin pen can be a quicker and easier way to give yourself an injection.
A disposable insulin pen comes preloaded with insulin. Once you use it, you throw the whole pen out. Reusable pens have an insulin cartridge that you replace after each use.
To use an insulin pen, you first program the number of insulin units you need to take. Then you clean your skin with alcohol and insert the needle, pressing the button and holding it for 10 seconds to release insulin into your body.
An insulin pump is an option if you have to give yourself many doses of insulin each day. The pump consists of a device about the size of a cellphone that fits into a pocket or attaches to your waistband, belt, or bra.
A thin tube called a catheter delivers insulin through a needle inserted under the skin of your abdomen. Once you put insulin into the device reservoir, the pump will release insulin throughout the day as basal insulin and bolus. This is used mostly by people with type 1 diabetes.
If you’re afraid of needles or find injections too uncomfortable, you might consider using a jet injector. This device uses high-pressured air to push insulin through your skin into your bloodstream, without needles. However, jet injectors can be expensive and more complicated to use than syringes or pens.
Your doctor and diabetes educator can discuss with you all the different types of diabetes management devices available. Make sure you know all your options and the pros and cons before choosing a device.