Medical assessment by Elizabeth Gomez, MSN, FNP-BC
Whether or not you’re new to insulin injections or for those who’ve been utilizing them for many years, sooner or later the thought has undoubtedly crossed your thoughts: “Can I reuse my syringes?”
There are at the least two tempting causes to reuse your syringes: It saves cash, and it saves trouble. Each member of the Diabetes Day by day workers will admit to having at the least sometimes reused syringes, lancets, and insulin pen suggestions.
But it surely’s essential to know that medical authorities universally agree that it is best to by no means reuse syringes. This text will talk about the dangers.
The Blunt Reality
Syringes, insulin pen suggestions, and lancets (used to prick the fingertips for glucose meters) are all manufactured for use solely as soon as. Merely put, they’re not constructed to penetrate your pores and skin a number of occasions. Each time you utilize one in every of these sharp implements, the needle’s tip degrades.
For those who spend time within the diabetes on-line group, you will have seen pictures of what are supposedly magnified pictures of syringe suggestions. Right here’s an instance of a picture that has been shared many occasions, all all through the web:
Fairly ugly, proper? However we’re unsure the place this picture truly comes from, and subsequently can not confirm that it’s actual. We don’t know what stage of magnification was used, or how damaging the needle on the appropriate would possibly truly be. However let’s take it with no consideration that needles endure fast degradation after use that can not be assessed with the bare eye.
So, what’s the issue with a blunt, ragged, or hooked needle? The primary and most blatant drawback is that it would damage. These reused needles are additionally extra prone to trigger bruising or bleeding.
However the injury from a blunt needle could transcend an ouchie. It’s been proposed that ragged needle suggestions additionally contribute to lipohypertrophy, the scarring and undesirable progress of fatty tissues. Lipohypertrophy is a sneaky and surprisingly widespread complication that may result in each disagreeable lumpy pores and skin and to declining blood sugar management, as a result of injections into broken flesh usually tend to be absorbed unpredictably. All of us wish to keep away from lipohypertrophy: It’s the first purpose we’re taught to rotate our injection websites.
There additionally exists a threat of bacterial contamination whenever you repeatedly inject your self with the identical needle, particularly if you’re not cautious about utilizing alcohol swabs to disinfect your pores and skin and the insulin vial stopper. Whereas an infection isn’t widespread, it’s a risk, and a harmful one at that. Many individuals with diabetes have a decreased potential to struggle off infections.
There’s additionally the possibility that you simply involuntarily assist speed up the degradation of the insulin itself by introducing contaminants into the vial.
And for those who depart a pen tip connected to your insulin pen, you will have opened a small pathway between the insulin and the surface world. Small quantities of air or fluid can journey by the needle, particularly when the pen is uncovered to temperature adjustments, which may scale back dosing accuracy.
What About Lancets?
The advice from well being authorities and producers on lancets is similar: it is best to change your lancet each time you utilize it.
The reality is that it’s a very uncommon affected person that adjustments their lancet each time. In line with One Drop, a glucose meter producer, most individuals change their lancets much less usually than every day. About one in 5 sufferers change their lancets “a couple of occasions a yr,” or by no means. There are lots of foolish lancet memes that joke about this lazy (and quite common) tendency.
Lancets are barely much less problematic than insulin, as a result of they don’t introduce lipohypertrophy or threat contaminating the insulin itself. However boring and ragged lancets damage, and if re-used excessively, you could not even understand how a lot they’ve began hurting as a result of the change has been so gradual.
Ideally, it is best to change your lancet as usually as doable.
Quantifying the Downsides to Reusing Sharps
A small 2015 examine evaluated 28 sufferers with sort 2 diabetes for a number of months, and located “frequent” problems. About half of the contributors skilled ache from reused syringes, two (7 %) had lipohypertrophy, 5 (18 %) had bruising, and one had an energetic an infection at their injection sight. These sufferers reused their syringes a median of 3 times every.
An earlier however bigger 1989 examine had totally different outcomes. This experiment adopted 87 sufferers with diabetes to see if they really adopted syringe use suggestions. About half of them didn’t, reusing syringes a median of 6.6 occasions, and solely a minority disinfected the best way they’d been taught. The outcomes? No hurt carried out, apparently:
No adversarial impact of syringe reuse was recognized. The authors conclude that diabetic sufferers continuously reuse disposable syringes, with out obvious dangerous impact.
There can also be some conditions wherein utilizing a contemporary needle is definitely extra harmful than not. How so? Effectively, think about that you haven’t any technique to get rid of your outdated lancet or pen tip correctly. You possibly can’t simply toss it within the trash, and also you definitely don’t need it bouncing round unprotected in your purse or backpack. In that case, it could be higher for everybody for those who would simply reuse your needle.
You may additionally end up with out a contemporary sharp whenever you wish to use one — errors occur, and plans are upended. It occurs to all of us. In that case, you could have to stability the chance of reusing needles towards the chance of suboptimal blood sugar administration.
The Backside Line
All well being authorities are united after they say that every one sharps — whether or not syringes, pen suggestions, or lancets — needs to be used solely as soon as.
Many individuals with diabetes fortunately ignore this recommendation, and the chance of doing so is troublesome to quantify.
The very best apply is undoubtedly to make use of a brand new disposable needle each single time it’s doable. Nevertheless, there could also be some conditions the place re-using a pointy is the most suitable choice.