Everything You Need to Know About Type 2 Diabetes and Insulin
While most people know that insulin is needed to manage type 1 diabetes, not everyone realises that it is also an effective treatment for people with type 2 diabetes. In fact, there are more than 250,000 Australians living with type 2 diabetes using insulin.
When you are first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes you are most likely to go onto a medication such as metformin. However, over time, it’s not uncommon to find the medication is not enough to keep blood glucose levels in the target range. When this happens your doctor will suggest going on to insulin.
A lot of people are frightened about injecting insulin and research has also found that one in two people think that starting insulin is a sign of ‘failure’ – that they haven’t managed their diabetes well enough. In people with type 2 diabetes, the body’s ability to make and use insulin declines over time – that is the natural progression of the condition. That means that the type and dose of medications you need to manage diabetes is also likely to change over time. Needing insulin is not a sign you have failed in any way.
Before starting insulin, some people say they are afraid of injecting themselves and many are worried or nervous about how painful it might be. In fact, a lot of people will put off starting insulin because of their fear of pain. However, after trying insulin injections, most people report that it is easier than they expected. Insulin injections are less painful than fingerprick testing because the needles are very thin.
How to inject insulin
Insulin can be injected by using an insulin syringe or an insulin pen. If you are scared of injections there are devices to help lessen any discomfort such as the tickleflex injection aid that grips your skin when you inject so that you don’t feel the needle prick.
Insulin is injected into the layer of fat that sits just below your skin. It is not recommended to inject insulin into a muscle as this will change the speed at which the insulin is absorbed. The ideal injection site is in your abdomen, keeping away from the navel, groin and chest area. Other areas that can be used include the buttocks, upper thigh and the back of the arm. Make sure you rotate your injection site with every injection.
How often will I have to inject?
The frequency of insulin injections will depend on what insulin has been prescribed for you. Some insulin is only given once per day, while others can be given two to four times per day. If you are unsure of how many times you should be injecting your insulin check with your doctor or credentialled diabetes educator. If you are worried about remembering when to take your insulin there are devices available to help with insulin dosage such as Timesulin and Insulchek. These devices are placed on the end of your insulin pen device and will record the time and amount of your last insulin dose. It can be very handy if you are forgetful or lead a busy life!
Are there side effects?
Like any medication, insulin does have some side effects. Hypoglycaemia, also known as a ‘hypo’, is the term used when blood glucose levels drop below 4mmol/L. Hypos can occur in people with diabetes who take insulin or other types of glucose-lowering medications. A hypo is typically caused by having too much insulin in the body, not eating enough carbohydrate food, or taking part in physical activity which is unplanned or more strenuous than usual. It is sensible to always have some hypo treatments to hand such as glucose tablets or gels to help your blood glucose level get back in range, however, a simple juice popper or some jellybeans can be just as effective. Talk to your doctor or diabetes educator about hypo treatments if you are concerned.
How much does insulin cost?
Insulin prescribed by your doctor is subsidised on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme (PBS). Syringes and needles are free for people using insulin. If you are new to insulin it is important that you update your NDSS card to reflect this.
People use insulin because it can make a positive difference to their diabetes management by helping you keep your blood glucose levels in your target range. This will give you more energy and reduce your risk of long-term complications.
If this article has raised any concerns, please call 1800 637 700 to talk to a health professional about managing your diabetes.