- The correct dose for basal insulin, which is the insulin that keeps your blood sugar steady all day, depends on many things, such as the time of day and if you are insulin-resistant.
- An excess of insulin in the bloodstream causes cells in your body to absorb more sugar (glucose) from your blood. This condition is called hypoglycemia.
- People who have low blood sugar levels are advised to consume 15 grams of a fast-digesting carbohydrate, such as glucose tablets or a high-sugar food, immediately.
Before the discovery of insulin, diabetes was a death sentence. Patients couldn’t use the nutrients in their food and would become thin and malnourished. Strict diets and reduced sugar intake could only keep them alive for a few additional years.
In the early 1920s, Canadian surgeon Dr. Frederick Banting and medical student Charles Best discovered that insulin could help normalize blood sugar levels. Their discovery garnered them the Nobel Prize and allowed people with diabetes to live a much longer and more normal life.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) states that today, 12 percent of adults with diabetes take insulin only, while 14 percent take both insulin and an oral medication. Taken as prescribed, insulin is a lifesaver. Too much of it, though, can cause significant side effects and, in some cases, death.
According to a 2004 study, insulin overdoses are common. While most are intentional overdoses, many are accidental. Understand the signs and risks of taking too much insulin.
Like all medications, you need to take insulin in the right amounts to provide benefits without harm. The correct dose for basal insulin, which is the insulin that keeps your blood sugar steady all day, depends on many things, such the time of day and if you are insulin resistant. The correct dose of meal time insulin for anyone with diabetes depends on a number of factors, including:
- pre-meal blood sugar
- carbohydrate content of the meal
- fasting blood glucoseactivity planned either before or after your meal
- genderyour target post-meal blood sugar goals
Insulin medications also come in different types. Some are fast-acting, and will work within about 15 minutes. This is the type of insulin you take before meals. Other types of insulin are more lasting. They take longer to affect blood sugar levels but then provide protection for 24 hours.
The strength or potency of the drug may also vary. The most common strength is U-100, or 100 units of insulin per milliliter of fluid. Patients who are more insulin-resistant may require more than that, so the drug is available at up to U-500 strength.
All these factors come into play in determining the right dosage. Doctors provide basic guidance, but accidents can happen.
Accidentally overdosing on insulin is not as difficult as it may seem. You might overdose accidentally if you:
- forget a previous injection and take another before it’s necessary
- are distracted and accidentally inject too much
- are unfamiliar with a new product and use it incorrectly
- forget to eat or suffer an unexpected mealtime delay
- exercise vigorously without snacking
- take someone else’s dosage by mistake
- take a morning dosage at night, or vice versa
Realizing you’ve overdosed can be a very scary situation. Understand the symptoms of overdose to make sure you receive the treatment you need as soon as possible.
An excess of insulin in the bloodstream causes cells in your body to absorb more sugar (glucose) from your blood. The liver also produces less glucose. These two things work together to create dangerously low glucose levels in your blood. This condition is also called hypoglycemia.
Your blood needs the right amount of glucose for your body to operate properly. Glucose is the body’s fuel. Without it, it’s like a car running out of gas. The severity of the situation depends on how low the blood sugar level goes. It also depends on the person, because everyone reacts differently. Potential symptoms of low blood sugar include:
- sweating, clamminess, chills
- lightheadedness or dizziness and mild confusion
- anxiety or nervousness, shakiness
- rapid heartbeat
- double vision or blurred vision
- tingling in the lips or around the mouth
These signs indicate a potentially mild case of hypoglycemia; however, they still require immediate attention before they lead to dangerously low blood sugar. People who have low blood sugar levels are advised to consume 15 grams of a fast digesting carbohydrate, such as glucose tablets or a high-sugar food immediately. High-glucose foods include:
- fruit juice
Your symptoms should improve within 15 minutes. If they don’t, or if a test shows your levels are still low, repeat the above steps until your blood sugar is above 70 mg/dL. If your symptoms still don’t improve, seek medical help immediately. Be sure to eat a meal after treating a low blood sugar reaction.
More severe symptoms of hypoglycemia, sometimes referred to as diabetic shock or insulin shock, include:
- concentration problems
If a person becomes unconscious due to too much insulin, call 911. All people on insulin should have glucagon available. Family members or emergency personnel will typically need to inject glucagon, which counteracts the effects of insulin.
In a 2009 study, researchers acknowledged that people with diabetes are at an increased risk of depression and suicide. Sometimes, a person who is depressed or suffering from mental illness may take an insulin overdose on purpose.
If you or a loved one is experiencing depression, speak to a doctor as soon as possible. Also, make sure you know the emergency signs and symptoms of insulin overdose. It may help to save someone’s life.
Whether it’s done by accident or intentionally, insulin overdose can be an extremely dangerous situation. Though some instances of high insulin and low blood sugar can be fixed with a little sugar, serious symptoms should be treated as an emergency.
If you are with someone who is experiencing severe symptoms, take action right away. Call 911 and administer glucagon if you have it available.