Injecting insulin is not difficult, but it might take some practice. Injecting incorrectly can cause discomfort which may discourage you from using your medication. It can also make your medication less effective. Never stop taking your medication before discussing it with your doctor, even when you feel fine.
There are different areas of the body that can be used:
Stomach – be careful around the belly button, as there are a lot of veins in this area. Inject at least the width of 2 fingers away from your belly button
The top and outer thighs - avoid injecting too close to the bone area above the knee
The outer, upper arms - use the outer back area of the upper arm where there is usually more fatty tissue
YOU SHOULD ALTERNATE BETWEEN INJECTION SITES AND SHOULD NOT REUSE NEEDLES.
You might give yourself several injections a day. If you give them all on the same side, the tissue under your skin will get tough, tender, bruised, damaged and hard (lipodystrophy).
Reusing needles contributes to build-up of scar tissue. This can block the needle and interfere with insulin absorption.
Needles are sterile and designed for single use. When a needle is reused, it is no longer sterile.
Needle tips become hooked or broken off with repeated use, and this can cause painful injections and can also damage the skin.
HOW TO INJECT
Gather all your supplies.
Wash your hands.
Decide where you want to inject.
If you use a syringe, wipe the top of the vial with alcohol first. Let it dry.
Draw up the right amount of insulin in the syringe. Expel the air from the syringe and needle.
If using a pen, attach a new needle, turn the knob to the correct dosage.
Pinch and lift about an inch of your skin and fat with your thumb and forefinger.
Insert the needle straight into the skin (not at an angle).
Inject the insulin or press the knob.
Count slowly to 10 before taking the needle out. It can take a bit longer for insulin to come out of a pen than out of a syringe.
Insulin should not drip from your needle. If it does, you should leave your needle in a bit longer next time.
Dispose your needle in a sharps container or use a needle cutter. The container should be hard to prevent it from poking through.
Never throw used needles in the dustbin or flush them down the toilet.
When injecting insulin, it is injected subcutaneous. This means that you should inject into the fatty layer just under the skin.
If you inject too deep, the insulin might go into the muscle layer instead. There are more blood vessels in the muscle than in the fatty layer. Injecting into the muscle cause quicker absorption of insulin and that can cause your blood glucose levels to drop too quickly. To prevent this, make sure that you don’t insert the needle too deep. Using a shorter needle can also help to prevent accidental injection into the muscle.
Store unused pens in the refrigerator between 2-8°C.
Do not freeze insulin.
After opening a vial or insulin keep it at room temperature between 15-25˚C.
If insulin overheats, throw it away.
When travelling with insulin, keep it in a cooler box with ice/gel pack. Cover it with a hand towel to prevent it from getting too cold. Keep insulin in your hand luggage if you are traveling on a bus or plane.
Insulin is a hormone (chemical messenger) that is produced by the pancreas in your body.
WHY IS INSULIN IMPORTANT?
When we eat, food gets broken down into different nutrients. One of them is glucose (sugar). Glucose is like fuel for the body. It gives you the energy to move, talk, think and even sleep. If food enters the body, it triggers the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin is like a key that opens the cells. With the action of insulin, glucose can enter the cells and get used for energy or stored until it is needed by the body.
A person with type 1 diabetes does not produce insulin at all.
A person with type 2 diabetes may produce some insulin, but their body does not respond to it in the correct way
WITHOUT INSULIN, THE GLUCOSE REMAINS IN YOUR BLOODSTREAM.
This causes high sugar levels in your bloodstream (called hyperglycaemia).
Without insulin, glucose can’t be stored for energy. This is the reason why people with uncontrolled diabetes may feel tired, agitated and hungry. Hyperglycaemia can also cause damage to your blood vessels and organs. This can contribute to issues like heart attacks and strokes in the future.
Insulin cannot be taken as a tablet. It needs to be injected or given via an insulin pump.
A person with type 1 diabetes will need a long and short acting insulin when diagnosed.
A person with type 2 diabetes will usually start with a tablet to help their body to respond better to the insulin that it produces. Over time, if their diabetes is not controlled, the pancreas will produce less and less insulin until it is necessary for them to also inject insulin as part of their treatment.
THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES OF INSULIN, DEPENDING ON HOW LONG THEY HAVE AN EFFECT IN YOUR BODY:
Long-acting insulin is an insulin that is been released slowly throughout the day and night in your bloodstream. Some of the long-acting insulins work up to 12 hours and others up to 24 hours. Depending on the specific type of long-acting insulin you use, you will inject it either once or twice a day.
Short acting/rapid insulin is insulin that is injected with a meal to bring the blood glucose down after carbohydrates (sugar) is eaten. The name ‘rapid’ indicates that insulin works immediately after it is injected and its effects last only for a short time.
Your doctor will tell you which meals during the day will require you to use insulin. It could be for only one or for all 3 meals. Your doctor will also teach you how to adjust your insulin according to what your blood glucose reading is, what you eat and how active you are.
THE INSULIN THAT YOU INJECT IS JUST LIKE WHAT YOUR BODY WOULD NORMALLY PRODUCE. IT IS NEEDED TO CONTROL YOUR DIABETES EFFECTIVELY.
Written by Sr Annemarie Van't Foort | Health Window
Reference: Tosun B, Cinar FI, Topcu Z, Masatoglu B, Ozen N, Bagcivan G, Kilic O, Demirci C, Altunbas A, Sonmez A. Do patients with diabetes use the insulin pen properly? Afr Health Sci. 2019 Mar;19(1):1628-1637