How to Use an Insulin Pen - Mayo Clinic Patient Education
Insulin Injections for Type 2 Diabetes: Don't Fear the Needle
Needle anxiety shouldn't stop you from using insulin — try these tips to lessen the sting.
By Diana Rodriguez
Medically Reviewed by Lindsey Marcellin, MD, MPH
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Being diagnosed with diabetes is challenging in many ways. Managing diabetes calls for making significant lifestyle changes, or facing serious complications. If your type 2 diabetes requires insulin injections for tighter blood glucose control and you're afraid of needles — or even if you're not — it can be a struggle to inject yourself faithfully a few times a day.
Unfortunately, putting off needed insulin injections won't make it any easier — and your health can suffer in the meantime. It's important to start taking your insulin as prescribed, as soon as it's prescribed, says Lorena Drago, RD, CDE, a certified diabetes instructor and consumer advisor for the American Association of Diabetes Educators. What can help? Working with a health professional to put your mind at ease and correctly instruct you from the beginning, Drago suggests, explaining that if you’re sent home without having tried an insulin injection in the medical office, you’ll be less willing to attempt it on your own.
Work with a professional the first time out to make sure you’re using the correct technique and the correct supplies, including the blood glucose meter needed to check your blood sugar levels.
Easing Needle Anxiety
Many people are very anxious about giving themselves an insulin injection, says Drago, and may be afraid of the sting of the shot itself. When teaching new patients how to administer their insulin injections, Drago tries to reassure them that it's not as terrifying as it seems.
For starters, if you're nervous that the shot is going to hurt, Drago suggests numbing the area with a piece of ice. "Once they do it, they realize that it's not as bad as they originally thought it was going to be," Drago says reassuringly.
And for those diabetes patients who are afraid of needles and just can't stomach the thought of injecting themselves several times a day, she recommends an insulin injector pen. It's a device that looks like a pen rather than a syringe, so the needle isn’t obvious.
About Insulin Pumps
The insulin pump is an insulin delivery method that doesn't require injecting yourself with a needle. It is connected to the body via a tube and needle in the skin that stays there all the time, and the device itself is strapped to a belt or attached to a pocket. The pump continuously delivers a steady amount of insulin. When you sit down to eat, you press a button that releases extra insulin to help your body process the food.
One big benefit of the insulin pump is the freedom to eat at different times, says Drago, and being able to adjust your insulin. But the insulin pump isn't for everyone, particularly those who think they can just forget about their diabetes once they have a pump.
"Some individuals need to be more conscientious about their diabetes,” says Drago. Even with the insulin pump, she says, patients must be diligent about counting their carbohydrates. They also still have to bring back-up supplies everywhere, in case something goes wrong with the pump. And just as with self-administered insulin injections, you have to understand how food affects you and adjust your insulin accordingly — the pump isn't magic, and it doesn't automatically measure your blood sugar or alter your insulin dosage unless you manually adjust it. Though it offers some benefits that many people with diabetes find convenient, an insulin pump isn’t going to manage your diabetes for you.
No matter how you decide to administer your insulin, your job is to take good care of yourself and give your body the right fuel to function.
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