One of the first things we think about when someone mentions diabetes management is insulin. Since its advent in the early 1920s, it has saved countless lives.
Decades have passed since then. And the crude extracts from the pancreas of cattle paved the way for the purer and refined forms of life-saving insulin that are used today.
Before we get into the tips and tricks of using insulin, it’s important to know the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM).
As a general guide:
However, it is completely essential in the management of type 1 DM. Patients with type 2 DM are generally prescribed other treatments before insulin.
As mentioned in the table above, insulin can be used to treat both types of diabetes mellitus.
Now that we have gone over the basics, it’s time to go over some essential insulin injection guidelines.
Insulin Injection guidelines: A Step-by-Step Guide
Tip 1: Stay Cool
Because insulin is a hormone, either naturally-derived or synthesized, it is mainly made up of proteins.
Proteins are sensitive to environmental factors such as extreme temperature, sunlight, or air exposure.
These factors can degrade the proteins and amino acids in insulin, causing it to become unstable, ineffective, and possibly dangerous.
Most insulin manufacturers recommend storing the vials, pens, and cartridges in the refrigerator (2 to 8°C) until they are ready to be used.
Injecting cold insulin may be painful, so allowing it to stand at room temperature for 15-30 minutes before use is ideal.
If you have already opened a multi-use vial or do not have access to a refrigerator, many insulins can safely be stored at room temperature (<30°C) for up to one month.
The benefit of storing it at room temperature are:
- you can immediately administer a dose when it is needed without worrying about pain.
- you can keep it near you at all times in your home or office.
One of the most important insulin injection guidelines: Never freeze or heat insulin using a hot water bath or microwave. The extreme temperatures will destroy the insulin structure and should not be administered.
Tip 2: Perfect Timing
One of the most important insulin injection guidelines has to do with timing.
Make it a habit to administer your insulin at the same time each day, as directed by your physician.
While 15 minutes early or late may not be much of an issue, larger gaps of an hour or more may greatly affect your insulin and blood sugar levels. This, of course, depends on the severity of your diabetes and the type of insulin.
Missing a dose or administering a dose very late can result in high blood sugar, but overtreating with insulin is even more dangerous.
High doses or too frequent injections of insulin can result in low blood sugar or hypoglycemia which can cause tremors, anxiety, fainting, and even death.
Generally, multi-dose insulin regimens are administered before meals to control postprandial (after meal) blood sugar spikes. Once a day insulins are best administered upon waking up in the morning.
Tip 3: Don’t stick to one
While it’s normal for people to choose favorites in all things, your insulin injection site should not be one of those things.
To avoid bruising, skin irritation, and the formation of fat deposits (lipohypertrophy), it is best to rotate between different areas of the body to inject insulin.
The best areas to inject insulin are the thighs, abdomen, and upper arms. These areas are easy to access and less painful due to higher fat distribution that acts as a cushion or buffer.
Other areas that are used are the hips, back, and buttocks, however, these areas are less accessible for self-administration due to their orientation and require more care during injection to avoid affecting muscles and nerves.
Tip 4: Sharing is NOT Caring
Unless you are stuck on a desert island with another person and you both need insulin to survive, it is not recommended to share your insulin with anyone else. Not only are your insulin requirements likely different but sharing needles is a big no-no in any context.
Reusing your own needles is a bit controversial. But this may be allowed by your healthcare provider in certain cases, especially due to financial instability. Never reuse a needle and syringe, even if it’s your own if you have an infection or are currently sick.
Tip 5: Take Notes
Continue to measure your blood glucose levels regularly to ensure that your diabetes management is effective for you. Aside from your blood sugar levels, keep a journal, and note any changes in your physical and mental health.
If you accidentally spill hot coffee on your bare feet but don’t feel a thing, experience frequent yeast infections, or find yourself getting irritable, these are diabetic complications and signs that your insulin therapy may not be controlling your diabetes well enough.
Keeping a diary or journal is helpful for both you and your doctor to monitor treatment progress and make the necessary adjustments when needed.
Learn more about Type 2 Diabetes, here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.