Medical review by Elizabeth Gomez, MSN, FNP-BC
Whether you’re recent to insulin injections or if you happen to’ve been using them for a long time, in some unspecified time in the future the thought has definitely crossed your mind: “Can I reuse my syringes?”
There are at the very least two tempting reasons to reuse your syringes: It saves money, and it saves hassle. Every member of the Diabetes Each day staff will admit to having at the very least occasionally reused syringes, lancets, and insulin pen suggestions.
Nevertheless it’s necessary to know that medical authorities universally agree that it’s best to never reuse syringes. This text will discuss the risks.
The Blunt Truth
Syringes, insulin pen suggestions, and lancets (used to prick the fingertips for glucose meters) are all manufactured for use just once. Simply put, they’re not built to penetrate your skin multiple times. Each time you utilize certainly one of these sharp implements, the needle’s tip degrades.
When you spend time within the diabetes online community, you might have seen photos of what are supposedly magnified images of syringe suggestions. Here’s an example of a picture that has been shared over and over, all throughout the web:
Pretty ugly, right? But we’re undecided where this image actually comes from, and due to this fact cannot confirm that it’s real. We don’t know what level of magnification was used, or how damaging the needle on the suitable might actually be. But let’s take it with no consideration that needles suffer rapid degradation after use that can’t be assessed with the naked eye.
So, what’s the issue with a blunt, ragged, or hooked needle? The primary and most evident problem is that it’d hurt. Those reused needles are also more prone to cause bruising or bleeding.
However the damage from a blunt needle may transcend an ouchie. It’s been proposed that ragged needle suggestions also contribute to lipohypertrophy, the scarring and unwanted growth of fatty tissues. Lipohypertrophy is a sneaky and surprisingly common complication that may result in each unpleasant lumpy skin and to declining blood sugar control, because injections into damaged flesh usually tend to be absorbed unpredictably. All of us wish to avoid lipohypertrophy: It’s the first reason we’re taught to rotate our injection sites.
There also exists a risk of bacterial contamination once you repeatedly inject yourself with the identical needle, especially if you happen to will not be careful about using alcohol swabs to disinfect your skin and the insulin vial stopper. While infection just isn’t common, it’s a possibility, and a dangerous one at that. Many individuals with diabetes have a decreased ability to fight off infections.
There’s also the possibility that you simply involuntarily help speed up the degradation of the insulin itself by introducing contaminants into the vial.
And if you happen to leave a pen tip attached to your insulin pen, you may have opened a small pathway between the insulin and the skin world. Small amounts of air or fluid can travel through the needle, especially when the pen is exposed to temperature changes, which might reduce dosing accuracy.
What About Lancets?
The suggestion from health authorities and manufacturers on lancets is similar: it’s best to change your lancet each time you utilize it.
The reality is that it’s a really rare patient that changes their lancet each time. In accordance with One Drop, a glucose meter manufacturer, most individuals change their lancets less often than each day. About one in five patients change their lancets “a number of times a 12 months,” or never. There are numerous silly lancet memes that joke about this lazy (and quite common) tendency.
Lancets are barely less problematic than insulin, because they don’t introduce lipohypertrophy or risk contaminating the insulin itself. But dull and ragged lancets hurt, and if re-used excessively, you might not even realize how much they’ve began hurting since the change has been so gradual.
Ideally, it’s best to change your lancet as often as possible.
Quantifying the Downsides to Reusing Sharps
A small 2015 study evaluated 28 patients with type 2 diabetes for several months, and located “frequent” complications. About half of the participants experienced pain from reused syringes, two (7 percent) had lipohypertrophy, five (18 percent) had bruising, and one had an energetic infection at their injection sight. These patients reused their syringes a median of 3 times each.
An earlier but larger 1989 study had different results. This experiment followed 87 patients with diabetes to see in the event that they actually followed syringe use recommendations. About half of them didn’t, reusing syringes a median of 6.6 times, and only a minority disinfected the best way they’d been taught. The outcomes? No harm done, apparently:
No antagonistic effect of syringe reuse was identified. The authors conclude that diabetic patients steadily reuse disposable syringes, without apparent harmful effect.
There can also be some situations through which using a fresh needle is definitely more dangerous than not. How so? Well, imagine that you may have no approach to get rid of your old lancet or pen tip properly. You may’t just toss it within the trash, and also you definitely don’t want it bouncing around unprotected in your handbag or backpack. In that case, it could be higher for everybody if you happen to would just reuse your needle.
You may also end up with out a fresh sharp when you ought to use one — mistakes occur, and plans are upended. It happens to all of us. In that case, you might must balance the chance of reusing needles against the chance of suboptimal blood sugar management.
The Bottom Line
All health authorities are united after they say that every one sharps — whether syringes, pen suggestions, or lancets — needs to be used just once.
Many individuals with diabetes happily ignore this recommendation, and the chance of doing so is difficult to quantify.
The very best practice is undoubtedly to make use of a brand new disposable needle each time it’s possible. Nonetheless, there could also be some situations where re-using a pointy is the very best option.