Insulin Facts and Fiction

Injecting insulin is painful

If I begin taking insulin, I will have to take it for the rest of my life.

If I have to begin insulin therapy it means my diabetes is getting worse.

Taking insulin will make my life more complicated.

I am afraid of needles. How am I supposed to stick myself?

Insulin will make me gain weight.

Insulin can make me go blind.

I might go into insulin shock.

People will think I am a drug addict if I carry a syringe.

False. Most new insulin users are pleasantly surprised when their first shot ends up hurting much less than they expected. It has become more comfortable to inject insulin because of the needles, which are smaller and thinner than ever. In fact, BD needles not only make injecting virtually pain-free, but they also make it easy, too:

  • BD offers syringes with barrel sizes to match your exact dose.

  • BD offers a wide variety of convenient and comfortable pen needles.

  • BD has created helpful Injection Demonstrations and instructions to make the injection process comfortable and easy to understand.

A twinge of soreness from time to time is normal, but if you frequently feel a sting while injecting, try the following:

  • Check with your doctor to make sure that your injection technique is correct.

  • Wait until the alcohol from the swab has dried completely on your skin before injecting.

  • Be sure you are not bending the needle when you remove the cap. Needle caps should be removed by first twisting and then pulling them straight off.

  • Inject your insulin when it is at room temperature. Cold insulin hurts.

  • Keep the muscles in the injection area relaxed during injection.

  • Never use your needles more than once. Reusing a needle can bend or dull the tip, which will increase the pain, and could cause it to break off and become lodged in your skin.

  • Larger insulin doses hurt more than injections of small amounts. To minimize injection pain, ask your doctor if you can try injecting more frequently throughout the day with a smaller amount of insulin.

  • Penetrate your skin quickly. If this is hard to do, consider using an automatic injection device that will put the needle in your skin for you, such as the
    BD™ Inject-Ease ® Automatic Injector device.

  • Avoid injecting into muscle by pinching up your skin before injecting and injecting into the fold of skin that you pinch up.

  • Speak with your doctor about using a different needle size or injection device.

  • Speak with your doctor about injecting into other parts of your body.

  • Only use BD needles and syringes to inject your insulin. The fine diameters, sharp points, and lubricated coatings of BD's high-quality needles and syringes make your injections as comfortable and pain-free as they can be. (If BD products are not covered by your insurance, contact us and let us know.)

For people with type 1 diabetes, this is true. For some people with type 2 diabetes, depending on the stage of their disease, insulin therapy may be a temporary treatment that is only necessary during periods of illness and other stress.

Many insulin users find that by controlling their diet and following an exercise program, they can reduce the amount and type of insulin and/or medication that is needed. Sometimes losing as little as 10 pounds can make a big difference in a person's insulin requirements, though this does not work for everyone.

For people whose diabetes is caused by pregnancy, illness, or another temporary condition, insulin treatment can usually be stopped once the cause of the disease has been resolved.

But whatever kind of diabetes you have, keep in mind that insulin can help you achieve your blood glucose target, which will make you feel better and have more energy. In fact, many people who were at first intimidated by insulin therapy find that it makes them feel so much healthier, they wish they had started it earlier. You may not be able to stop insulin therapy whenever you want, but that is because your condition requires it, not because it is addictive. Remember, insulin is a hormone, so it is not "habit-forming" or addictive.
False. If your doctor tells you that you need insulin therapy in order to control your diabetes, that does not mean you are doing anything wrong or your condition is getting worse. Insulin is simply a tool to help you better manage your blood sugar level.

Your blood sugar level can be controlled through a combination of insulin therapy, diet, and exercise. (In fact, many people with type 2 diabetes follow a regimen called combination therapy that uses pills along with insulin.) Without insulin treatment, however, your blood sugar may rise and you will be at greater risk for developing the serious complications associated with diabetes.

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True. But the additional work of taking proper care of your diabetes today will help prevent the complications of diabetes in the future and help you to live a healthier longer life.

For your insulin therapy to be effective, you will need to make certain changes in your lifestyle. For example, you should:

  • Eat the right foods
  • Exercise regularly
  • Test your blood glucose regularly
  • Take your diabetes medications as prescribed

If you do these things, you may find that your daily routine calls for more discipline than you are used to. But once you commit to these healthy changes, you will also find that the benefits of feeling better and having more energy are well worth the effort.
At first, many people are nervous about injecting themselves with insulin, so you are not alone. If you are worried about the injection hurting, don't be: today, insulin needles, especially the BD line of small, comfortable, high quality needles, are not like the larger, more painful ones that you remember from when you were a kid.

Once you have gotten past that first shot and the insulin begins to take effect, you should begin to feel better and have more energy. That is why your doctor prescribes insulin for you - it is the best way to get control over your diabetes.

If you are still a little uneasy, try these helpful injection relaxation tips:

  • Take a deep breath before injecting.

  • Visualize a calm, relaxing scene, like a sunset or a favorite vacation spot.

  • Picture an enjoyable experience (like going outside to start your day) that you can do once you finish injecting.

The BD Injection Demonstration is an animated, step-by-step explanation of the process of injecting insulin.6.  INSULIN WILL MAKE ME GAIN WEIGHT.
Many people find that they do put on a few pounds when they begin taking insulin. This is also true if they take oral medications that stimulate the pancreas to produce extra insulin.

The reason for this is simple: when your blood sugar was too high, many of the calories you ate were flushed out of your system in your urine. But since insulin therapy turns those calories into energy for your body's cells, all those lost calories are now being absorbed - which leads to weight gain.

To prevent weight gain, follow a meal plan that has only the necessary amount of calories that your body needs to function, and start an exercise program. By combining these steps with your insulin therapy, you should begin to lose any weight that you gained.

If the weight is not coming off as fast as you would like, you may have to make some other changes, which can include:

  • Developing a meal plan with the help of a dietitian.

  • Increasing your exercise level.

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False. There is absolutely no evidence that insulin treatment causes blindness. In fact, it is almost the opposite that is true: if you do not control your diabetes, you can eventually lose your eyesight. The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial showed that proper treatment of diabetes with insulin reduced the risk of eye disease by as much as 76%.

Over a long period of time, high blood sugar levels can damage the small blood vessels of the retinas in your eyes. This condition, known as diabetic retinopathy, can cause loss of vision and eventually lead to total blindness as it progresses. (Note: if you already have retinopathy and you blood sugar levels are lowered too quickly, your vision can be affected. Be sure to talk to your doctor about this.)

Fortunately, diabetic retinopathy - which is the leading cause of blindness in the United States - is totally preventable if it is discovered early and treated quickly. Be sure to visit an eye doctor once a year to make sure you are okay.
Insulin shock is a term that was previously used to describe hypoglycemia (also called low blood sugar reactions, or insulin reactions). By testing your blood sugar and treating low blood sugar at the first sign of trouble, you can minimize the effects of hypoglycemic reactions and have more control over your diabetes.

If you have told your friends, family, and co-workers about your diabetes, they will know you are injecting insulin and are not a drug addict. However, some uninformed people have been known to jump to the wrong conclusion when they see a person with diabetes injecting insulin.

If you are asked why you have a syringe, all you have to say is "I have diabetes and I have to inject insulin." If this person insists on asking questions or making comments that are pushy or tacky, try to end the conversation as quickly and politely as you can.

Fortunately, most people are aware of what insulin injection is, so you should not run into this problem. And if you would rather not tell anyone about your condition, try carrying your supplies in a zippered case and injecting in private.

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The BD Diabetes Learning Center describes the causes of diabetes, its symptoms, and diabetes complications such as retinopathy and neuropathy. This site contains detailed information about blood glucose monitoring, insulin injection and safe sharps disposal. Interactive quizzes, educational literature downloads and animated demonstrations help to teach diabetes care skills.

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