If you’ve been an insulin user for many years, then chances are you’re probably well versed in the process. For many people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, the day-to-day blood sugar monitoring, insulin injections, and diet restrictions have become second nature. But if you’ve been running on autopilot, perhaps it’s time to reassess your diabetes care plan with the following tips and tricks.
A study from the American Diabetes Association says that following certain precautions while using pumps, pens, or syringes can ensure a pain-free, accurate insulin dosing every time. Here are some tips to help you.
Air bubbles in a syringe, insulin pen, or the tubing of a pump can decrease the amount of insulin you receive. Some experienced insulin users become complacent after years of injections, but you should never lose sight of checking for air bubbles. Checking before every injection will reduce the chance of your blood sugar swinging too high or too low.
If you use a pen, avoid leaving a needle tip on the pen between injections. And don’t forget to prime a pen with two units of insulin before dosing.
If you notice blood or clear fluid after a painful injection, apply pressure to the site for 10 seconds. Don’t rub. If you think you didn’t get the full insulin dose, check your blood sugar more often in the hours following the injection. If painful injections are common, talk to your endocrinologist or diabetes educator and let them evaluate your injection technique.
If bruising is a problem for you following an injection, ice the site for one minute beforehand. This shrinks the blood vessels. You may also need to change the angle of your injection. Bruising and pain can occur when you hit your muscle instead of subcutaneous fat. Talk to your endocrinologist about changing your needle prescription to a shorter length if you have frequent bruising. Also, never reuse needles. Used needles can increase injury and risk of infection. They may also be more painful because they are dull.
If you use a pump, be sure to keep an eye out for infection at the injection site. If you notice infection, contact your doctor right away. Infections can increase blood sugar levels. Be sure to change the infusion set, as well, and use proper hygiene when changing infusion sets.
Rotating injection sites
Remember to rotate and separate the sites where you put your infusion set or inject your insulin, especially if you favor your stomach. Injecting in the same area repeatedly may lead to scar formation. Scarring can interfere with how well your body absorbs insulin. Injections near the navel can also lead to poor absorption, so avoid injecting two inches around the navel. And because many insulins cannot be mixed, make sure to specify body areas for different insulins.
If you’re the caregiver to someone with diabetes who is visually impaired, consider prefilling their syringes with insulin. Self-administration should be practiced as much as possible. Prefilling the syringes will ensure better accuracy while helping them maintain their independence. This is also a good practice for people caring for those with limited mathematic skills when it comes to proper dosage.
Insulin pump and continuous glucose monitoring tips
For insulin pump users, taking the proper steps with infusion site changes can make the process go more smoothly. Here are some tips to consider.
Using an adhesive on your infusion area makes it stickier for insertion. If you don’t want to use adhesive, then use an antiperspirant spray or solid instead. You should avoid deodorants. The odor-masking chemicals can sometimes irritate the skin.
Clean the site thoroughly with an alcohol swab, then apply the antiperspirant. Wait at least 10 minutes before inserting your infusion set.
If you have a hard time with adhesiveness but don’t want to prep the site as above, you can use certain types of dressing to cover the adhesive pad. Examples include Tegaderm and Polyskin. Be sure to cover only the adhesive pad.
Sports and your pump
Try to wear clothing with spandex during athletic activity. This can help keep your infusion set from slipping or pulling out during exercise. Velcro bands are another good option.
When it comes to where you attach your infusion set, take your day-to-day activities into consideration. For example, if you find yourself in an office environment most of the time, avoid the waistband area. You should secure tubing to avoid snags on doorknobs, cabinets, and other hazards. If you’re an avid runner, you may find that your arms would be a better placement area than your legs during a race or training period.
No matter how much time has passed since your diagnosis, there is always room for reevaluation. You may learn a new thing or two when it comes to managing your diabetes.