Finding out that you need to start taking insulin for your type 2 diabetes may cause you to become concerned. Keeping your blood sugar levels within target range takes a bit of effort, including eating a healthy diet, exercising, and taking your medications and insulin as prescribed.
But while it may sometimes seem like a hassle, insulin can help you properly manage your blood sugar, improve your diabetes management, and delay or prevent long-term complications such as kidney and eye disease.
Here are 10 tips for how to make your transition to using insulin easier.
1. Meet with your healthcare team
Working closely with your healthcare team is the first step to starting on insulin. They’ll discuss the importance of taking your insulin exactly as prescribed, address your concerns, and answer all of your questions. You should always be open with your doctor about all aspects of your diabetes care and overall health.
2. Put your mind at ease
Starting to use insulin isn’t as challenging as you might think. Methods for taking insulin include pens, syringes, and pumps. Your doctor can help you decide what’s best for you and your lifestyle.
You might need to start on long-acting insulin. Your doctor may also recommend mealtime insulin to help manage your blood sugar levels. It’s possible that you may switch to a different insulin delivery device. For example, you may start out using an insulin pen and eventually begin to use an insulin pump.
When it comes to your insulin or your insulin delivery system, a one-size-fits-all plan doesn’t exist. If your current insulin regimen doesn’t work for you, discuss your concerns with your healthcare team.
3. Learn about insulin
Your healthcare team can help you learn different aspects of diabetes self-care management. They can teach you how your insulin works, how to administer it, and what side effects to anticipate.
4. Check your blood sugar
Talk to your doctor, certified diabetes educator, and other members of your healthcare team about your blood sugar testing schedule, including what to do when you’re at home, school, or away on a vacation. They may ask you to check your blood sugar more often when you first start on insulin to make sure you’re within target range.
They may adjust your insulin dose over time depending on blood sugar readings. They may also adjust your dosing schedule depending on your:
- physical activity level
5. Ask questions
Your doctor and other members of your healthcare team can help you and answer any questions you have about your insulin and diabetes management. Try keeping an updated, written list of questions to discuss during your next visit. Store this list in the notes section of your smartphone or on a small pad of paper that you can easily access during the day.
Keep detailed logs of your blood sugar levels, including your fasting, premeal and post-meals levels.
6. Know the symptoms
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, occurs when too much insulin is in your bloodstream and not enough sugar is reaching your brain and muscles. The symptoms may occur suddenly. They can include:
- feeling cold
- a rapid heartbeat
Make sure you keep a fast-acting source of carbohydrate with you at all times in case you experience low blood sugar. This may be glucose tablets, hard candies, or juice. Work closely with your doctor to develop an action plan in case an insulin reaction occurs.
Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, can also happen. This condition develops slowly over several days when your body doesn’t have enough insulin, which causes blood sugar levels to increase. The symptoms include:
- increased thirst and urination
- difficulty breathing
If your blood sugar is well above your target range, call your doctor.
Your doctor, nurse, or certified diabetes educator can teach you and your family about the symptoms of low or high blood sugar, and what to do about them. Being prepared can make it easier to manage your diabetes and enjoy life.
7. Stay focused on your healthy lifestyle
It’s very important to continue to eat a healthy diet and stay physically active when you start taking insulin. Having a nutritious meal plan along with getting regular exercise will help keep your blood sugar levels within your target range. Make sure to discuss any changes in your physical activity level with your healthcare team. You may need to check your blood sugar level more often and adjust your meal or snack schedule if you have a significant increase in your physical activity level.
8. Inject your insulin with confidence
Learn how to properly inject insulin from your doctor or another member of your healthcare team. You should inject insulin into the fat just underneath the skin, not into the muscle. This will help prevent differing absorption rates each time you inject. Common places to inject include the:
- upper arms
9. Store insulin properly
In general, you can store insulin at room temperature, either opened or unopened, for ten to 28 days or more. This depends on the type of package, the brand of insulin, and how you inject it. You can also keep insulin in the refrigerator, or between 36 to 46°F (2 to 8°C). You can use unopened bottles that you’ve kept refrigerated until the printed expiration date. Your pharmacist will probably be the best source of information about how to store your insulin correctly.
Here are some tips for proper storage:
- Always read the labels and use opened containers within the time period recommended by the manufacturer.
- Never store insulin in direct sunlight, in the freezer, or near heating or air-conditioning vents.
- Don’t leave insulin in a hot or cold car.
- Use insulated bags to moderate temperature changes if you’re traveling with insulin.
10. Be prepared
Always be prepared to test your blood sugar. Make sure that your testing strips aren’t expired and that you’ve properly stored them along with a control solution. Wear diabetes identification, such as a medical alert bracelet, and keep a card in your wallet with emergency contact information at all times.
The main goal in treating type 2 diabetes is to manage your blood sugar levels properly to reduce your risk of complications. Using insulin is in no way a failure. It’s simply part of your overall treatment plan to improve your diabetes management. By learning about all aspects of insulin therapy, you’re ready to take the next step to control your diabetes.