Everyone with Type 1 diabetes, and some with Type 2, need to take insulin to keep their blood sugar in the normal range. Keeping blood sugar balanced is the only way to prevent long-term complications that lead to vision loss, heart disease, kidney failure, and diabetic foot ulcers, the top cause of amputations.
As a specialist in diabetic foot care, Sean Rosenblum, DPM, at Foot and Ankle Care of Passaic includes diabetes education as part of your preventive care.
Since many of our patients have questions about using and storing insulin, we wrote this blog to give you a rundown on how to maintain insulin stability and potency.
About insulin stability
Medications break down over time, losing stability as their chemical ingredients decompose. This problem occurs naturally and explains why medications have expiration dates.
As a medication breaks down, it loses potency and stops working properly. Losing strength may not matter when taking acetaminophen for a headache, but it's potentially life-threatening if you depend on insulin.
Insulin is a protein, and proteins break down when they're not kept at the right temperature. For this reason, proper storage is the key to maintaining insulin's stability and potency. Here are four storage tips to follow.
Store unopened insulin in the refrigerator
Keeping unopened insulin in the refrigerator (at 36 F to 46 F) maintains optimum potency until the expiration date. Most refrigerators stay within the required temperature range.
If you turned the refrigerator temperature up to save on electric bills, you should adjust the thermostat or check the temperature with a refrigerator thermometer.
You may hear or read that you can keep unopened insulin at room temperature. But unopened insulin can only stay at room temperature for 28 days, and then it starts losing potency. Additionally, some insulin pens should never be stored at room temperature, even if they're unopened.
Keep open insulin at room temperature
After you open insulin (puncture the vial or mix the meds), you can keep it at room temperature (59 F to 86 F). Most insulin products can stay at room temperature for 28 days, but there are exceptions.
Some pens are only good for 10 days, while other brands last 42 days at room temperature. Additionally, a few products are only good up to 77°F. The instructions that come with your insulin should tell you the storage details.
Most importantly, pay attention to where you keep the insulin. The location should be away from heat and humidity. Don't put it next to the stove, in a bathroom cabinet, or in direct sunlight. Find a dark, dry place that always stays at room temperature, like a pantry or closet.
Avoid temperature extremes
In addition to avoiding high temperatures and humidity, you should also keep your insulin away from temperatures below 36°F. In other words, never freeze insulin thinking that will preserve it longer. And don't thaw and use insulin that was frozen.
Freezing damages the medication and renders it virtually useless.
Honor expiration dates
Beyond maintaining the proper temperature, the best way to ensure insulin stability is to honor the expiration dates. You can depend on these dates as long as you store the insulin as required for your specific brand.
Drug manufacturers perform extensive testing to determine how long medications maintain stability. Then they carefully choose expiration dates to ensure the drug doesn’t significantly break down so you get the proper dose.
If you have questions about insulin or need diabetic foot care, call us at Foot and Ankle Care of Passaic in Lodi, New Jersey, or book an appointment online today.