Skip to Content

Pen Devices For Insulin Administration


An insulin pen is a device used to inject insulin. The pen contains a cartridge of insulin and a needle. The pen may be reusable or disposable. You may need a different pen for each type of insulin you use.


How to get the insulin ready to use:

Wash your hands before and after you use an insulin pen.

  • Check the label and appearance of the insulin:
    • Check that you are injecting the right type of insulin. Check the expiration date. Use a new insulin cartridge or disposable pen if the expiration date has passed.
    • Check that the insulin is clear, colorless, and free of particles or clumps. Use a new insulin cartridge or disposable pen if the insulin does not look right.
    • Follow the pen manufacturer's instructions for inserting an insulin cartridge into a reusable pen.
  • Mix cloudy insulin:
    • Roll the pen gently in the palms of your hands 10 times.
    • A small bead in the cartridge mixes the insulin. Tilt the pen back and forth straight up, then straight down 10 times to make sure the insulin is mixed well.
    • After you roll and tilt the pen, the insulin should be evenly mixed. If the insulin does not appear to be evenly mixed, repeat the mixing process.
    • Do not use the insulin if there are clumps in it after mixing.

How to get the pen ready to use:

  • Attach the disposable needle to the pen:
    • Remove the pen cap. Clean the rubber seal on the insulin cartridge with a sterile alcohol swab.
    • Attach the disposable needle to the pen. Remove the outer needle cap and save it to use after your injection. Remove the inner needle cap and throw it away. Use a new needle every time you inject insulin.
  • Prime the pen before each injection: This releases a small amount of insulin into the pen to help get rid of air bubbles that may be in the pen. Air bubbles can affect the flow of insulin and cause you to inject the wrong amount.
    • Point the needle up. Tap the insulin cartridge to force any air bubbles to the top.
    • Dial 2 units of insulin on the dose selector. For most insulin pens, you will hear a click for each unit of insulin that you have dialed. Point the needle up. Firmly press the plunger until a drop of insulin appears at the needle tip. Repeat this step if a droplet does not appear. You may need to use a different needle or pen if you have to repeat this step several times.
  • Dial the correct dose:
    • Make sure there is enough insulin in the pen for your full dose. Insert another cartridge into your reusable pen or use another disposable pen if there is not enough insulin.
    • Set the dose selector at 0 in the dose display area. Dial your insulin dose. Check the insulin display area to make sure you have dialed the right dose.

How to use the pen to inject insulin:

  • Insulin is usually injected into the abdomen, thighs, and arms. Ask where to inject your insulin and how to rotate the injection sites.
  • Clean the injection site with a sterile alcohol swab or soap and water. Let your skin dry before you inject the insulin.
  • Lightly pinch a fold of skin at the injection site. Hold the insulin pen at a 90 degree angle and insert the needle all the way into the skin. Children and thin people may need to inject the needle at a 45 degree angle.
  • Let go of the pinched fold of skin. Inject the insulin by pushing the button on the insulin pen all the way in. Keep the button pressed and count to 5 before you remove the needle from the skin. For glargine insulin, leave the needle in your skin for 10 seconds before you remove it. Gently apply pressure on the injection site, but do not rub it.
  • Place the outer cap on the needle and remove the disposable needle from the pen. Throw the needle away in a hard container.

How to store an insulin pen:

  • Store the insulin cartridges or disposable pens you are not using in the refrigerator. Do not store insulin cartridges or disposable pens in the freezer. Do not store pens with the disposable needle attached. Keep insulin pens out of the reach of children.
  • Keep the insulin pens that you are using at room temperature. Keep the insulin pen away from direct heat and light. The amount of time that you can use an insulin pen that has been at room temperature varies. Ask how long you may use your insulin after you open and keep it at room temperature.

Follow up with your primary healthcare provider (PHP) or diabetes specialist as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Contact your PHP or diabetes specialist if:

  • You think you gave yourself too little or too much insulin.
  • Your blood sugar levels are often higher or lower than caregivers have said they should be.
  • You have trouble using your insulin pen.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.