Many people with diabetes are wary of taking insulin for a variety of reasons. These include the belief that taking insulin represents a personal failure, insulin is not effective, insulin causes complications or even death, insulin injections are painful as well as fear of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels), loss of independence and weight gain.
However, most people who have started insulin therapy say that it actually improves flexibility in their everyday lifestyle, eating habits and ability to control their blood sugar levels.
People with type 1 diabetes have a shortage of insulin while those with type 2 diabetes initially are able to produce enough insulin but their bodies do not respond well to it (insulin resistance). Insulin shortage and insulin resistance result in high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia). Long-term hyperglycemia damages vital organs of the body, such as the eyes, kidneys and heart.
People with type 1 diabetes need insulin therapy from the time of diagnosis. For people with type 2 diabetes, oral medications may initially be enough to control blood sugar levels. Over time, many people with type 2 diabetes need insulin injections to lower high blood sugar levels and prevent diabetes-related complications. The need to start insulin therapy doesn’t mean a person with type 2 diabetes did not do a good job of managing his or her disease. Type 2 diabetes is simply a progressive disease that eventually takes its toll.
Soon after starting insulin therapy, most people notice that they have more energy, urinate less frequently at night, feel less thirsty, have less muscle aches and pains, and feel more confident about being able to control their blood sugar levels. These positive outcomes come about because insulin therapy restores blood sugar levels to normal or nearly normal. When administered properly, insulin therapy helps prevent diabetes-related complications such as kidney damage, heart attack, stroke, reduced eyesight or blindness, nerve damage and amputations.
Insulin therapy can cause hypoglycemia, a potentially dangerous condition. Frequent checking of blood sugar levels using a glucometer can help prevent hypoglycemia. Following your doctor’s injection instructions and sticking to your meal plan and physical activity schedule can also reduce hypoglycemia risk. Your doctor can help you and your family and friends recognize the signs of hypoglycemia and address it immediately.
The good news is that modern insulins are more similar to the insulin made by your body than the insulins of the past. People react better to modern insulins, which are less likely to cause hypoglycemia. With the new-generation insulins, injection only takes a minute or two. Insulin vials don’t have to be kept in the fridge all the time. Light and easy to carry insulin pens provide a convenient and accurate way to administer insulin therapy. You can take insulin anywhere you go—you can still socialize and travel!
The decision to start insulin therapy ultimately belongs to the person with diabetes. Your doctor can help you make an informed decision and administer insulin therapy appropriately. By working closely with your diabetes care team you can start insulin therapy, manage diabetes and live life to the fullest!
CONTEST: Insulin can be administered by syringe or insulin pen. True or False? E-mail your answer to [email protected] and get the chance to win a prize! Congratulations to Elmer Baysic! Your correct answer to the question in the June 22 column was chosen as this week’s winner in the Diabetes Trivia Contest. You will receive an e-mail on how to claim your prize.
Rosa Allyn G. Sy is a diabetes specialist. The “Changing Diabetes” column commemorates the 92nd anniversary of insulin’s discovery. It aims to increase awareness on diabetes prevention, diagnosis and management. Novo Nordisk supports “Changing Diabetes.” Headquartered in Denmark, Novo Nordisk is a global healthcare company with 90 years of innovation and leadership in diabetes care. For questions or comments, e-mail [email protected] or follow us at www.facebook.com/ChangingDiabetesPH.