Given the cost of diabetes supplies, many people find that they need to reuse lancets and syringes. In a poll conducted in September 2002, over half (61%) of our respondents reuse just lancets. 13% report reusing both lancets and syringes.
In recent years, lancets, syringe needles, and pen needles have become thinner in an effort to reduce the discomfort of blood glucose monitoring and insulin injections. As a result, the strength of the lancets and needles has declined, since they are thinner overall and, in the case of needles, the walls are thinner. They work fine for one use but become noticeably distorted, as can be seen in the photomicrographs on the right.
In these images, you can see that the tip of the needle has bent over, especially after two uses. This can result in greater discomfort at the injection site and increases the risk that the tip of the needle will break off and remain under the skin, which can cause pain and lead to infection1.
The ADA position on insulin administration includes the following caution on needle reuse:
Another issue has arisen with the advent of newer, smaller (30 and 31 gauge) needles. Even with one injection, the needle tip can become bent to form a hook which can lacerate tissue or break off to leave needle fragments within the skin. The medical consequences of these findings are unknown but may increase lipodystrophy or have other adverse effects.
Some people choose to reuse syringes and lancets for economic reasons, since reusing lancets and syringes saves money. Lancet reuse is much more common than syringe reuse, according to a recent CWD poll on the topic. If you choose to reuse, for whatever reason, it’s important to be aware what’s happening at the tip of the syringe or lancet. And always be sure to let your diabetes team know if you experience any unusual discomfort or changes in the skin at an injection site.
- Ask the Diabetes Team question about needles breaking off under the skin
- Needles and Syringe Reuse Poll from September 2002
- ADA Position Statement on Insulin Administration, which includes a discussion on needle reuse
- Risks of Needle Reuse from BD