What You Know
Insulin, normally secreted by the pancreas, is a hormone that helps your body to process glucose and turn it into usable energy. When your pancreas does not secrete sufficient amounts of insulin, normally the case in type 1 diabetes, you may be required to take daily injections of insulin.
Some typical names of insulin are: Humulin, Iletin I NPH, and Novolin, among others—you may use one or a combination. A bolus insulin is fast-acting and is usually taken at mealtime to minimize high blood glucose levels from the carbohydrates that you eat, called hyperglycemia. Basal insulin is long-acting and meant to control blood glucose levels between meals and overnight.
Typical Insulin Side Effects
Until you can regulate your insulin, figure out what lifestyle changes you need to make and how to adjust your dosage, you may also have side effects. Of course these will vary too, and you may experience them over the course of your lifetime.
Rash or redness at the injection site: The area you inject insulin into can swell, get itchy or become raised and hard.
Hypoglycemia: When your blood sugar levels dip too low, you may experience heart palpitations, blurred vision, feeling disoriented or excessive sweating. If untreated, hypoglycemia can lead to confusion, coma or convulsions.
Allergic reaction: More severe symptoms at the injection site or after can manifest itself as a squeezing all over the body, labored breathing, faster pulse, and change in blood pressure.
Hyperglycemia: Too little insulin can result in high blood sugar levels that make you feel confused, drowsy, or thirsty. Other symptoms include a need to urinate, rapid breathing, fruity breath or dry mouth.
Counteract Side Effects
There are some steps you can take to counteract diabetes and side effects caused by taking insulin.
Rash or redness at needle site and fat deposits: Ask your physician to chart the best spots to inject insulin and rotate between the areas. When you continually inject into the same site, you can have a loss or overgrowth of fat tissue and even a reduction in insulin absorption. Since you are going to be dosing yourself repeatedly, the best thing to do is rotate your shot sites.
Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar levels can be caused by administering too much insulin, missing a meal or drinking alcohol on an empty stomach. Exercising without first eating may also cause hypoglycemia. Symptoms include a cold sweat, shaking, rapid heart rate, weakness, headache and fainting which, if untreated, may lead to slurred speech and behavior resembling drunkenness. Check your blood level and, if needed, eat fruit or candy to raise your glucose level. The American Diabetes Association says that it’s “important to know what hypoglycemia is, what symptoms of hypoglycemia are, and how to treat it” so you can prevent the condition from escalating into a critical medical emergency.
Allergic reactions: Insulin today has fewer allergic reactions and is usually taken care of by starting small doses and increasing them over time. Insulin resistance, thought to be caused by a formation of antibodies to fight against the insulin, is generally managed by increasing the insulin dose too.
Hyperglycemia: Not taking enough insulin, an illness such as a cold or flu, an infection, eating too many carbohydrates, stress and certain medications can cause hyperglycemia. Your insulin dosage is off and needs adjustment. Take your usual insulin dose—don’t skip it. Keep eating your meals, testing your blood glucose levels and testing your urine for ketones every two hours. Contact your doctor if blood glucose levels remain above 200 for an extended period of time.
Interaction with Other Drugs: This calls for doctor intervention because certain medications will change the rate of blood sugar absorption. Some drugs such as corticosteroids improve the rate of blood sugar while others such as antidepressants may will degrade sugar use. For women, hormones also influence blood rates for sugar.
Reference & Resources
Medicinenet Insulin Facts: https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=43911
USA TODAY Health Central: Difference between hypo and hyper-glycemia: https://www.healthscout.com/ency/68/24/main.html
American Diabetes Assoc. Insulin: https://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/insulin/
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