Spending money is never fun… Unless it’s money you intentionally saved up for something fun, but that’s rarely the case. Bills, debts and monthly obligations take all the joy out of having a bank account and I think we can all agree that money is some of the dirtiest stuff in the world. It makes the world go ’round while throwing rust into the gears, if you will. If you have Type-1 Diabetes (or any other condition requiring regular therapy of any kind) money can be especially important, since Diabetic supplies cost a damn fortune.
I covered expenses in a post I wrote in June of 2019, The Cost Of A life… where I explained that in Canada, insulin therapy involving the use of an insulin pump can run close to $1,000 a month. That was before I got onto CGM, so it would likely tip the scales over that one grand total per month now. If one is lucky enough o have medical insurance (which I do at the moment), this isn’t a big concern. But for those who don’t, cost-cutting methods are often employed that may not be ideal, no matter how necessary they may seem.
This is where the title of today’s post comes in. Before starting my current job, I found myself without medical insurance and as a result, I used to undertake a lot of nasty practices. I’d skip meals so I’d use less insulin. I’d only test my blood once or twice a day to save on test strips. On a few occasions, I even slept through some days to avoid taking insulin as I couldn’t afford it until the next pay check. But one of the habits that I know we all have, regardless of financial situation, is the reuse of needles.
I say “regardless of financial situation” because I’m still guilty of this one. The auto-mode on my most recent pump has seen me testing my blood sugar more frequently than before. It’s almost as though I’m punished for good behaviour. Blood sugars have been stable for four hours? Better check your blood sugar, something must be wrong. Pump hasn’t HAD to deliver insulin for two and a half hours because of regular readings? Something off, check your blood sugar! And that’s not including the mandatory, twice a day calibrations the pump requires.
My point is, the temptation to test my blood via fingerpick and simply leave the lancet in there for next use is very real. Especially if the damn pump wakes me up for a test at 3 o’clock in the morning. I’ve had enough things outside of my body waking me in the middle of the night; I get pretty pissy when it’s a medical device that’s supposed to make my life easier. Waking me up doesn’t make my life easier (or anyone else’s since I tend to get cranky).
As you can see from the photograph I included above, the needle begins to dull and suffer damage to its surface after just one use. After six uses, the tip becomes something that one would never consciously use to inject themselves. But because the damage is microscopic and we can’t see it, we usually succumb to the temptation to reuse needles. I’ve often fallen prey to this and in fact, still do. But there are a lot of problems with doing so.
The multiple reuse of a needle can potentially introduce unknown contaminants into your insulin vials and into your body. Your needles are sterile when they’re opened, but once used and exposed to open air they can be subjected to any number of untold filth and bacteria on surfaces and in the air. When you reuse the needle that second time, you may be pushing something into your insulin vial and contaminating the entire supply. Or you could be pushing it into your fingertip and potentially introducing something to yourself.
A common risk and side-effect of reusing the same needle repeatedly is developing Lypohypertrophy, which I described in great detail in my post The Needle Jammed Into Your Haystack… (Yes, I refer back to my own posts a lot! It’s MY blog, what can ya do???) Basically, the condition describes the accumulated lumpy, scarred tissue that develops under the surface of the skin when it’s pierced by a needle. Since we Type-1’s tend to inject ourselves frequently, the risk of this condition is greater. But reusing a dull, used needle will increase the chances of infection and scar tissue.
I decided to write this post because I’ve often heard other folks with Diabetics sarcastically say things like, “Oh, it’s Sunday! It’s lancet changing day!”The reality, although I fully understand that I represent the kettle in this equation, is your lancet and needles should be changed after EVERY use. Although it’s an easy way to save a buck (sometimes), the complications it can cause are too frequent and serious to risk. And I think we can all agree that Diabetes carries enough complications on its own without intentionally causing more. ☯