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Needle technology has changed remarkably over the past two decades. Many years ago insulin needles were large, often blunt and were kept immersed in surgical spirits to ensure they were free of germs. The result was a very painful injection which has lead to the popular belief that insulin injections are painful!
There are four manufacturers who supply needles for the UK market. Becton Dickinson (BD Microfine needles), Disetronic (Penfine), Owen Mumford (Unifine Pentips) and NovoNordisk (Novofine needles). The needles are generally interchangeable and may be used with all the available pens with the exception of the OptipenPro pen
Needles vary in length and guage. Generally the higher the gauge the thinner the needle is. A 31G needle is therefore thinner than a 28 G needle.
There are five available lengths 5mm, 6mm, 8mm (5/16“), 12 mm and 12.7 (1/2”) mm. There are four different gauges being 28g, 29G, 30G and 31 G.
Your Diabetes Specialist Nurse will advise you on which needle would suit your requirements. In general more obese individuals would require a longer needle. The short needles do not require you to pick up a fold of skin when injecting.
Above: Needle in sterile package
Above: Peel off cover exposing hub of needle
Above: Attach pen to needle and remove cover
Not necessarily. Some overweight patients have experienced increased blood glucose levels using a shorter pen needle.
Insulin needles are disposable. Use a new needle for each injection. Because the new insulin needles are so fine they are not suitable for repeated use.
This is best avoided. When going from a warm environment to a cooler place the insulin may contract and air can be drawn into the cartridge. As a general rule, attach a fresh needle before your injection and discard immediately after.
a 'sharps' bin
Always dispose of your used needles carefully. It is your responsibility to ensure your used needles are disposed in a safe manner. Use a sharps bin for this purpose or use a needle clipper.
Ask your practice nurse or local authority about safe disposal of sharps bins and used needles. Your surgery may be willing to provide a sharps bin and also agree to dispose of your sharps bin when full.
Click here to view the table.
©Dr Nishan Wijenaike
West Suffolk Diabetes Service
2nd October 2003