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Home > Knowledge & support > About type 1 diabetes > Treatments for type 1 diabetes > Insulin > Insulin injections
Insulin is injected into the fatty tissue below the skin. Your thighs, upper arms, buttocks and stomach are the best places to make insulin injections, but this should be discussed with your Diabetes Healthcare Team.
Rotating your injection site is important because if the fat beneath the skin gets hard or lumpy it can affect the way your body absorbs the insulin. In this case, it might not work the way it’s supposed to. Be careful not to inject into muscle either, because this can also affect the absorption of insulin and may cause hypoglycaemia as well as bruising.
There are two main types of insulin pens; reusable pens, where you replace a cartridge in the pen when the insulin runs out, or pre-filled disposable pens, where you simply use a whole a new pen when your old one runs out.
Smart insulin pens are also available, which connect to an app to record how much insulin you’ve taken and when. Find out more about smart insulin pens.
Using the right kind of needle is really important. Using the wrong needle can affect the way insulin gets into the body and lead to unpredictable highs and hypos, bruising around the injection site or even leaking insulin.
Needles for insulin pens come in a variety of sizes up to 12mm long, but most people with type 1 use needles that are 4mm, 5mm or 6mm. Check the box you’ve been given to see what size your needles are.
In general, it’s best to use the shortest needle for the job, particularly when you first start injecting insulin. The Forum for Injection Technique recommends that:
However, if you are using a short needle and find a big drop of insulin on your skin after you pull it out, you may need a longer one. If your insulin tends to leak, it may help to deliver half your dose in one site, and then inject the other half at least 2 inches (5cm) away. Concentrated insulin (U-200 rather than U-100) might be another option to discuss with your Diabetes Healthcare Team.
Talk to your GP or Diabetes Healthcare Team about what length needle you should be using.
To make a pen needle for insulin injections, a thin tube of steel is sharpened to a point using three or five cuts. The one made with five cuts means the tip is thinner and it can go into the skin more easily, so you may find this easier to use.
You can talk to your GP about needle tips. If your needles have been changed, talk to your GP if you would prefer to keep using the ones you’re used to. They might need input from your Diabetes Healthcare Team or consultant, who you can ask to write to your GP.
Insulin pen needles are medical devices. It’s important that they work well and meet international standards – and they usually do. However, if you find a problem with your needle, it’s important to report problems so they can be addressed.
If you have a needle that’s not safe or that doesn’t work properly:
If you regularly have problems with your pen needles and you want to switch to a different brand, talk with your GP or Diabetes Healthcare Team.
Novo Nordisk’s PenCycle scheme is a great way to recycle any pre-filled insulin pens. Find more information on the Pencyle website.
There are different types of insulin and methods of delivering insulin to the body.
A smart insulin pen is a reusable self-injection pen, which records information about how much insulin you inject and the timing of it.
Insulin pumps can improve glucose control in people with type 1 diabetes but do not suit everyone.
In England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland you can get an insulin pump providing you meet certain criteria.