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[IP] Did you know?
All currently available forms of insulin must be injected. Insulin cannot be
taken orally, because stomach acids break it down before it has a chance to
work. But that may soon change.
According to the American Diabetes Association, there are several products
in clinical trials or in development that may eventually eliminate the need
for insulin injections. These include inhaled (aerosolized) insulin, oral
sprays, insulin skin patches, and insulin pills that are specially designed
to release insulin in the liver.
In addition, several companies are working on devices that will take the
sting out of blood glucose testing, using various non-invasive techniques
for reading blood sugar accurately, without the need for fingersticks or
test strips. One is currently available -- the Glucowatch -- although the
device is currently not intended to replace blood sugar checks with
As of this writing, there are no inhaled or oral insulins on the market, but
at least two of the inhaled forms are in late-stage clinical trials. In
addition, two insulin pills have begun early human testing, and there is one
insulin skin patch currently under investigation.
Although today's insulin needles are very thin and cause only minimal
discomfort for most people, there are many people with diabetes --
particularly those who are newly diagnosed -- who may be squeamish about the
need for multiple daily self-injections. Luckily, there are several
different alternative delivery systems, which, while they still require
penetration of the skin, may provide a kinder, gentler choice for insulin
Insulin pumps are beeper-sized devices that deliver insulin through a small
catheter (tube) inserted into the body. They deliver a continuous background
dose of insulin and extra doses, at the touch of a button, prior to
Insulin infusers use a needle or catheter (thin tube) inserted into the skin
to create a temporary portal through which insulin can be injected. They can
be left in place for two to three days, unless infection develops.
Jet injectors shoot a tiny stream of insulin under pressure into the skin, a
little like the needleless injection devices used in large-scale vaccination
programs. They can sometimes bruise the skin if not used properly, and it
may take time for the user who switches from needles to jet injections to
adjust to the differences.
Insulin pens are small, portable devices that contain a needle and an
insulin cartridge containing a measured dose of insulin. Because they can
easily fit in a pocket or briefcase, they're particularly convenient for
people who travel or who can't find a private place to use a syringe.
Some insulin pens deliver smaller insulin doses, which can be especially
helpful for managing diabetes in young children, who generally require only
fractions of adult doses of insulin. One company even has a product that
combines a blood glucose meter with an insulin pen for added convenience.
Injection aids help guide the needle into the skin or conceal it from view,
which can be helpful in public situations.
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