Using Insulin Pens
Insulin can be given using a syringe or a pen device. Some people find that a pen is more
easy to use than a syringe. Pens may cost more, so be sure to discuss this with your health
care team. Use the pictures and steps listed below to learn how to use your pen.
Parts of an Insulin Pen
Where to Inject Insulin
Injections are given into fatty tissue. The areas of fatty tissue are shaded below. Rotate
your injection sites to prevent tissue damage. Tissue damage can make it harder to
control blood sugars. Some people keep track where their last shot was given to avoid
these problems. If you choose one site, like the abdomen only, be sure to rotate shots
within that site.
Abdomen: If using this site, do not use the area within one inch of
your belly button. Avoid using the belt line area since rubbing may
irritate the site. Avoid scars from surgery.
Arms: Use the back side of your upper arm in the fatty tissue. It can
be hard to reach this area yourself. You can try pinching up the
tissue by placing your arm over the back of a chair or brace it
against a wall.
Thighs: Use top and outer areas where you can pinch up tissue.
While sitting, straighten your leg, rest your heel on the floor, and
relax your thigh muscle.
Buttocks: Use any area where you can pinch up tissue. This site is not often used since
it is hard to reach.
Steps for Using an Insulin Pen
1. Wash your hands.
2. Decide where you will give your injection. Be sure the skin is clean.
3. Check the label on the pen to make sure you are using the correct type of insulin.
ξ If using a mixed insulin, roll the pen between your hands 10 times. Then move it
back and forth 10 times. This is important so that you get the right dose.
4. Clean the rubber stopper on your pen by rubbing it with an alcohol wipe.
5. Remove the foil seal on the pen needle. Attach the pen needle to your pen by twisting
it on the end of the pen until tight.
6. Pull off the outer pen needle cap and inner pen needle cap. Set aside.
7. Prime the pen by dialing in 1-2 units (this is sometimes called the “air shot” test).
8. Hold your pen with the needle pointing up. Push the end of your pen like a plunger.
You should see a drop of insulin at the needle tip. If not, repeat this step.
9. Turn the dial to the number of insulin units you need to inject.
10. Locate the injection site. Inject the pen needle into your skin
at a 90 degree angle as shown in the picture.
11. Push the end of your pen down all the way until pen dose
12. Wait 5-10 seconds before pulling the pen out of your skin.
13. Withdraw the pen and pen needle from your skin.
14. Unscrew and remove the pen needle.
15. Throw your used pen needle in a sharps box.
16. Pens do expire. Ask your nurse or pharmacist about this since
it varies based on insulin type.
Source for all images: Media Solutions, UW School of Medicine and Public
Health. Permission for use granted by the Wisconsin Diabetes Prevention and
Saltiel-Berzin, R., Cypress, M., & Gibney, M. (2012). Translating the research in insulin injection
technique: implications for practice. Diabetes Educ, 38(5), 635-643. doi:10.1177/0145721712455107
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call
if you have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with
your doctor. This is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical
condition. Because each person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on
your health care team when using this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©
12/2015 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the
Department of Nursing. HF#7375