Perspectives on Pokes

As anyone with diabetes knows, managing it can be expensive — even with insurance. Because of this (and for convenience, as well), many people with diabetes reuse lancets and syringes. A smart way to save money, or dangerous risk-taking? We asked seven people the same question:


What is your view on reusing lancets, pen needles, and syringes?

“Reusing is a fact of life. People do it. Just like everything else, you need to be smart and do it in moderation. For example, fine needles like 30g can be safely used only twice, or maybe three times, without causing real problems. Thicker lancet needles can go longer. But don’t keep using the same one for days on end, please!”

Amy Tenderich, blogger, Diabetes Mine; Type 1 diabetes for 4 years

“The availability of disposable medical goods such as lancets, needles, and syringes makes safety issues such as infection (skin infections, as well as the possibility of hepatitis, HIV, or even tetanus) easily overlooked and oftentimes taken for granted. It was not always like this. While infections and other risks of reuse may not be likely, it’s generally hard to rationalize reuse except for extraordinary circumstances or when there is no alternative (such as a medical emergency). My simple feeling is that it’s almost never worth taking these risks. Hopefully, patients and their families have the same perspective, but should they feel otherwise (reusing just for monetary reasons, for example), I hope they will feel comfortable enough to discuss this with their diabetes professional.”

Justin Indyk, MD, PhD, clinical fellow in pediatric endocrinology, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh

“I reuse lancets way too much! It’s a huge flaw, but I honestly never really think about changing them. My fingers have definitely paid the price, so I try to change the lancet every month or every other month. As far as syringes, I am on an insulin pump so I don’t worry about that anymore. However, when I was on multiple daily injections, first with NPH and then with Lantus, I definitely reused needles. I reused them about two to three times because I didn’t like to carry around a huge bucket of needles, so I’d keep two or three with me instead of six or nine. I could reuse them a few times but then they would become too dull to push into my skin. I think reusing lancets is easier and less painful because of the ejection motion that helps pierce the skin.”

Allison Blass, blogger, Lemonade Life; Type 1 diabetes for 15 years

“People with diabetes reuse lancets and syringes all the time, which seems pretty reasonable. However, the more someone reuses a lancet or syringe, the greater the discomfort, as the tip gets dull. Also, you shouldn’t wipe the lancet or needle with alcohol because that will remove the silicone coating and increase discomfort. It’s not a good idea to reuse lancets or syringes when one is ill, has an infection, or has cuts or sores on their hands. As far as insulin pen needles go, while some people do reuse them without any difficulty, there’s the possibility that with reuse, the right amount of insulin may not get delivered.”

Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, manager of clinical education programs, Joslin Diabetes Center; blogger, Diabetes Self-Management Blog

“I haven’t had much of a chance to reuse syringes since I switched to pumping, but I had been known to use the same syringe once or twice only in a pinch. Reusing lancets is a whole different story. I try to change it out often, but ‘often’ translates out to about twice a week. There’s a joke among diabetics: ‘Change the clocks? Change your lancet!’ It’s an easy, albeit gross, habit to fall into. Even though doctors advise against reusing sharps like lancets and syringes, and even though I am aware of the risk of infection with reuse, I’m not great at following ALL the rules of diabetes.”

Kerri Sparling, blogger, Six Until Me; Type 1 diabetes for 22 years

“As a long-timer with diabetes, I have personally developed a lot of bad habits, such as reusing lancets, needles, and syringes until they’re pretty dull. I have looked into the research on doing so, and assuming you bathe regularly and wash your hands, there does not appear to be a higher incidence of infections or other problems when you reuse these items. If you’re worried about it, pick a happy medium and use them only a couple of times. Myself, I prefer not to fill the landfills with more disposable medical waste than I have to.”

Sheri Colberg-Ochs, PhD, professor of exercise science, Old Dominion University; Type 1 diabetes for 40 years

“Reusing lancets seems to be a widespread practice among many people with diabetes who test frequently (including me), driven in part by the inconvenience of disposing of used lancets safely when not at home. Unfortunately, our society does very little to facilitate the safe disposal of sharps in public spaces. Based on personal experience, there seems to be little risk in this practice. Also, there ARE scientific studies which have shown there is no adverse effect as long as the sharps are reused by the same individual and some general common sense is applied (obviously, a bent needle should not be reused). Reusing needles and syringes is more controversial and less widespread, and I believe it occurs most commonly with pen needles, less so with syringes. However, pen needles and syringes aren’t nearly as durable as lancets, and patient comfort may play a much bigger role in the decision not to reuse these items. These are my own opinions based on my interactions among people with Type 1 diabetes, particularly among ‘seasoned’ patients; newly diagnosed patients seem more likely to follow recommendations from doctors and educators.”

Scott Strumello, blogger, Scott’s Web Log; Type 1 diabetes for 32 years

What do you think about reusing these items? Leave a comment below!

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  • Jean S. type 2 diabetic

    I have been diagnosed type 2 now for (3) years,and
    I am only on Metformin 2 times a day,plus diet and
    exercise. With that said…I am still guilty of
    using a lancet twice each day,then changing to a new one the following day. I realize this isn’t as
    bad a habit as others may have,but I do my share of
    this ‘no-no’.

  • Ellen

    What do users recommend for cleaning the used syringe? Water? Don’t clean?

  • rcmodelr

    Reuse syringes ONLY one or two times??? That’s not RE-USING them…

    Before I started pumping, I used two syringes per week. One syringe for my Lantus. That syringe got used twice per day for a full week before getting replaced. Second syringe, and later Insulin pen & pen needles. For the Humalog or Novolog, I used one syringe or pen needle per week, each needle getting used as often as 3 – 6 times per day. I’d sometimes change the fast Insulin syringe or pen needle more often, but each time, the lubricant coating would wear off of the needle before I ever noticed any dulling of the needle.

    As for lancets, I sometimes change mine… I think last time was maybe two weeks ago. If EASY DISPOSAL was more readily available, I’d change them more often, but very few places provide Sharps disposal containers for public use. Until such disposal facilities are more readily available in public places, many realistically wind up facing choice of “Do I change needle & endanger somebody else by getting rid of old one in provided trash can? Do I reuse what I have with me? Or do I SKIP the BG check or Insulin dose???” I’d say, especially in public facilities, it’s much safer to reuse our sharps than it is to either change-out using provided disposal location or to skip either the BG check or Insulin shot.

  • Mike

    I was told a long time ago that I could reuse lancets over and over as long as I was the only one who used it. This was by several doctors. I reuse the lancets sometimes for month’s and month’s. When they begin to hurt I just change it. I have to test very frequently and to change them all the time is both inconvienent and expensive. I’ve been doing this for decades and have had no adverse effects!

  • MickeyJ

    I always carry 2 cartridge cases with me that the test strips come in (in my meter case). One is empty, and 1 has an extra cartridge. I dispose of my used lancets and test strips into the empty cartridge. That is sturdy and closes tightly, and it holds at least a week of disposeables.

  • cjworthing

    I have been newly diagnosed with type II diabetes and test myself about once a day. I have never re-used because doesn’t the lancet become duller every time you use it? It hurts enough now!

    As far as disposal, my friend who is a nurse had me get an empty prescription bottle and write ‘sharps’ on it. She told me to take it to my doctor’s office and they have to dispose it for me. I did that and sure enough, it was very easy.

    Now I bought myself a small sharps unit that sits on my desk. I carry a small prescription bottle just in case I test at work, then I bring it home. Since I see the doctor every three months I will be properly disposing of the test strip as well as the lancet.

    Just a helpful tip on disposal!

  • tufbroad

    I reuse lancets for about two weeks and then change it. Needles I use once only and then break the needle and put it in a sharps container. I do not trust the sharpness of a needle.

  • mikey

    type 1 for 8 years and i say do what you feel comfortable with. Me personally yes, I reuse and probably will for the rest of my life.

  • jackqueline

    Oh dear! I’ve been a diabetic for over 40 years and I’ve only had to reuse a syringe once or twice. Lancets are so inexpensive, there’s no need to reuse them. Your neighborhood pharmacy propably has a generic or store brand version which is just as good as the name brand.

  • bkrall

    As a Type 1 for over 30 years and a pumper for 20 years, I don’t recall ever reusing my syringes before I started pumping. Lancets on the otherhand, it’s probably been 2 months since I’ve changed it and I check myself about 7 times per day. It is inconvenient, and as another blogger said, most places away from home do not have the containers to dispose of them properly. I wouldn’t want to be collecting them and carrying them home from work or other location everyday to dispose of them. I change my lancet when my fingers start to hurt.

  • Marge

    I wash my hand thoroughly before I test with the lancet. I use the same one several times. I have had no problems.

  • dkdelkjr

    I use the needle to my pens twice as it takes two shots to get the dose I need. So I use it once per “session” for two shots. The lancets I will reuse if a test was flawed (like not enough blood, too cold, etc). Since I’m not storing used needles and lancets, I feel my health saftey is not compromised.

  • anthony green

    i use lancets twice only , never reuse syringes.
    t. green

  • B J Naranjo-Smith

    I’m one of the lucky ones with Medicare and Tri-care so my syringes and lancets are delivered to me without cost. I am meticulous about not reusing syringes………and I am better about not using lancets too long since I started using the Accu-chek Multi-Clix. If you haven’t checked out this little gizmo, do your self a favor and see it at the drugstore. It uses a barrel/cylinder that is pre loaded with six lancets and a quick turn loads a new one. Disposal is a piece of cake because it is totally enclosed and no sharps are visible. When I say I’m doing better, when I change bottles of insulin on the first of each month, I put in a new lancet and try to remember to change it on the 15th…….but if I don’t I’m at least using 6 a month!
    Type 1 Diabetic for 16 years

  • Lindylou

    I rarely if ever reuse my lancets. It just doesn’t seem like a good idea to take the chance of infection when I already have a depressed immune system.

    As for disposing of them, I find using the empty medicine bottles (once all the labels are taken off) to be a good choice. It’s one time the child “proof” lids are very helpful. At least no one will be stuck unless they try and get at the lancets. Since most of the bottles are transparent, anyone can see it isn’t drugs being disposed of and they don’t accidentally stick someone.

  • manxcat

    My sister (also type 2) had a needle break off in her stomach after re-using it several times, necessitating an ER visit, with much painful probing to find it, as these needles do not show up on x-ray. Dr. said he was lucky to find it, as they sometimes just wait for an abcess to form to know where to dig for the needle.UGH!
    She still re-re-re-uses syringes… go figure. Moral of the story: I say, re-use, but use common sense as to how many times. I re-use lancets much more than syringes, which I re-use usually only twice. Don’t we all feel these issues would be moot if the consumables were affordable for all, and sharp disposal was more universally available?

  • Aunt Char

    I’ve been a Diabetic (type 2) for 29 years.
    I re-use my lancets and Syringes!…I’m the only one that uses them and I take two different insulins twice a day. I use one for Humalog and the other for Humulin….I want to thank the person that suggested taking the “sharps” to the doctor for disposal. I purchased a small device (about the size of a large nail clipper) from a place that sells diabetic supplies, it cuts off the needle part and stores it in this little device (it was about $8)…I bought it months ago and it sill is not full…guess I’ll take it to the doctors for complete disposal…I’ve reused to save money…if I could only find a place that sells the stips and insulin budget would me allot better!!!….

    • Charlotte Mingledorff Dickson

      I found Medcare they take my insurance so I get every month lancets, test strips, alcohol wipes and needles for my novolog and levemir pens. With the 1st shipment they included a meter! Not even a co pay for me. I often leave the needle on my pens for a day. But I use a new lancet every time I test! My cost is zero so it saves me about $80 a month! Reusing lancets hurts my fingers too much!!!

  • Thanks

    The only time I reuse a lancet is if I dont get enough blood from the stick. I have had a difficult time finding an even keel on stick depths though. At times when I up the depth I get bruising. I am just too paranoid about infection.

  • maranatha

    I reuse lacnets-change them about every other week.Have had no problems in 10 years.
    i reuse byetta pen injection needles about a week. After that they start to hurt!
    If i had to change a lacnet or needle every time I tested or injected, i would probably not test or inject as needed.

    On disposal, I also use empyt medecine bottles and empty test strips canisters(they hold two pin needles). My uncle uses a gallon milk jug.
    The marketd “biohazard collection” things are too darn expensive!

  • bubbie

    This is in referance to Aunt Char: You can get sharps dispensers for free off the net. I’ve got 2 of them. I can’t seem to fill even one of them. Then again I only test once a day, (in the morning, when I awake,) unless I feel it necessary to test again later in the day. So next time you need a sharps container just look for free ones on the net. NO S&H. And also thanks for the idea about taking the full sharps container to the doctor. You’re very clever!

  • Sue

    I am a new type 2 and though I have tested for years (usually once a day), I reused my lancets for a long time. Now that I am testing and injecting 5 times a deal. I think I will reuse the lancets still but not as long as before, maybe replace them once a week or when I start a new pen or something. I have 2 injection pens, 1 fast acting 4 times a day and 1 long acting 1 time per day. I travel throughout the day with my work and have been trying to manage how to do all this on the fly, in my car, etc.
    I have a great meter with a 17 strip drum. No handling and I have always just ejected them into a tissue in my home trash. (probably not good). I now carry a small ziploc bag to bring everything home. I do think it’s a pain to change out the needle on my insulin pens each time. I might try recapping them and using 1 per day or something. It would save the difficulty of screwing them on and off in the car. Question, when you remove a needle there is a cap you put back on the needle and unscrew it from the pen. Isn’t that safe enough to put in the trash? I am not familiar with the “clipping” them etc.

    • AB Cee

      Leaving the needle screwed onto the pen leaves an opening for any sort of “baddie” to “walk right into” your penful of insulin. THAT I don’t do and never will! However….I have used the same lancet for weeks on end with no problem and no worry. Now I’m experimenting with using the same pen needle. So far, I have used the same one four times a day for five days and it is STILL not “uncomfortable.” In case you’re wondering, I do squirt out a little insulin after I use the needle and before I use it again. In the meantime, I have developed a simple way to make sure that the needle remains sterile — I put the capped needle on an alcohol swab and hold it down with a rubber band right on top of my pill case. Now all of you knowitalls go on and tell me how I’m going to die at an early age because I don’t listen to the “eggspurts” — but let it be known that I will soon be 84 and I’ve been using my own intelligence for a long time!

  • Uma

    type 2, new dx 1.3 yr ago, 50ish, obese. There must be stories of deceased patients Dr saying, If only listened to us. Ignore warnings @ your risk.
    What if it was your kid? I’m fairly new at this so farmacy does ask if I’l need needles (ha), but not lancets. Hmmm, they are paid for, sold there. Only when moneys low, do I reuse either if runing out.
    Yea for a day, and keep used sharps in fridge.
    What fx on bod, if reusing sharps makes me sick?
    Not worth saving money that way. Cut back on other things, medicine, soap. Don’t bath or brush teeth. Same thing isn’t it?