Overcoming Fears of Starting Insulin Injections
People who have type 1
diabetes always need to take insulin injections because their pancreas doesn’t
produce insulin any longer. When you have type 2 diabetes, the much more common
form, your pancreas still produces insulin, but your body doesn’t use it as
effectively as it should. People with type 2 often hope they’ll be able to
manage their condition through lifestyle changes such as eating the right foods
in the right amounts, getting regular exercise and managing stress. They often
are able to manage their blood sugar this way. Often, they may need to take
medications that help their body use insulin more efficiently.
But sometimes when you have
type 2, you do have to take insulin, even if you’ve tried very hard to manage
your blood sugar in other ways. Many times, insulin becomes necessary when oral
medications are no longer effective enough. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed; it
just means that your body now needs insulin injections to keep your blood
glucose in check. Very often, your doctor will recommend that you continue to
take your oral medication even after you start on insulin injections. This is
often the most effective way to help people control their blood sugar.
Answers to common
It’s common to feel afraid
of the idea of starting insulin. You may be wondering about some or all of the
I don’t like the idea of giving myself injections. Won’t they be very
The newer needles today are quite thin and small
and cause little, if any, pain. Your care team will work closely with you to
show you how to inject yourself in the quickest, least painful way possible.
Most people find that insulin shots don’t hurt.
Q: I’m really active. I’m always heading
out the door to meet friends, go shopping, have dinner out. How will all that be
affected when I have to start giving myself shots?
Most people find that once they figure out their
injection and blood sugar testing patterns, they’re able to do all the things
they enjoyed before they started taking insulin. Some are surprised to realize
that taking insulin and regulating their blood sugar actually makes them feel
better, so they’re able to do even more than they did before. But it’s certainly
true that you’ll probably need more discipline in your routine than you’ve been
I’ve heard that when you start on insulin, it’s easier to develop low blood
This is a legitimate concern, but your care team will work with you to explain
how you can avoid this problem. It’s important to know the symptoms of
hypoglycemia and what to do about them. Read about how a woman named Linda, who
has diabetes and takes insulin, handles low blood sugar episodes -
LINDA MANAGES HER HYPOGLYCEMIA.”
I’m worried that insulin will make me gain weight. Is that true?
Some people do gain weight after they start
taking insulin. The reason for this is that your body hasn’t been making proper
use of the calories you’ve been taking in. Instead of using those calories to
create energy for your body’s cells, your body is flushing out those calories in
your urine. When you start injecting insulin, your body begins to use the
calories properly, and that’s why weight gain can occur. If you do gain weight,
you’ll need to take in fewer calories. If you have trouble figuring out what you
should focus on eating and not eating, be sure to talk with a registered
dietitian to make an eating plan that will work well with your diabetes regimen.
Q: I have the feeling that needing to start insulin means my diabetes has
reached a “terminal” stage. Is that true?
Not at all. It just means that you need to go to
the next level to keep your blood sugar under control. Many people who take
insulin have done so for years and years and years.
Things you can do to
make the transition to insulin easier
► Make sure you understand exactly why
it’s time to start insulin. If you have a nagging concern in the back of your
mind that taking pills is still the best way to manage your blood sugar, you’re
less likely to want to make a change. Talk with your doctor, your diabetes
educator, nurse practitioner, etc., to learn exactly why now is the right time
for you to adjust your treatment plan.
► Work closely with your care team as you
go through this transition period. Each member of your team has a different
perspective to contribute to you about giving yourself injections, which
supplies would work best for you, how to prevent hypoglycemia and how to prevent
► Take a friend to the appointments with
you. Two heads are better than one when it comes to learning something new.
Read more about the different types of insulin and how they work in your body -
FOUND OUT YOU NEED TO TAKE INSULIN".
Clinical Diabetes, 22:151, 2004; Physicians Weekly, 31 October 2005