Insulin is used for people who have type 1 diabetes. It's also used if you have type 2 diabetes and other medicines are not controlling your blood sugar. If you have gestational diabetes, you may need to take insulin if diet and exercise have not helped to keep your blood sugar levels within your target range.
With little or no insulin, sugar (glucose) in the blood can't enter your cells to be used for energy. This causes the sugar in your blood to rise to a level that's not safe. When your blood sugar rises past about 180 mg/dL, your kidneys start to release sugar into the urine. This can make you dehydrated. If that happens, your kidneys make less urine, which means your body can't get rid of extra sugar. This is when blood sugar levels rise.
Taking insulin can prevent symptoms of high blood sugar. It can also help to prevent emergencies such as diabetic ketoacidosis (in type 1 diabetes) and hyperosmolar coma (in type 2 diabetes). Insulin can help lower blood sugar too. This can prevent serious and permanent health problems from long-term high blood sugar.
Remember these key tips for giving insulin shots:
Make sure you have the right dose of insulin, especially if you are giving two types of insulin in the same syringe.
Practice how to give your shot.
Store the insulin properly so that each dose will work the way it should.
When you use an insulin bottle for the first time, write the date on the bottle. Insulin stored at room temperature will last for about a month. Read and follow all instructions on the label, including how to store the insulin and how long the insulin will last.
On a reusable insulin pen, note the date you started using it. Keep in mind that reusable pens expire. For example, a pen may expire after several years.
Check that a disposable pen's insulin has not expired. This date is usually printed on the pen's label.
Prepare the shot
How you prepare will depend on whether you are giving one type of insulin or mixing two types.
Dispose of your used syringe, disposable insulin pen, or needle. Do not throw your used syringe, needle, or insulin pen into a household wastebasket or trash can. You can get rid of them in a metal container, such as a coffee can, that has a lid that screws on or that you tape down tightly. Or you can buy special containers for getting rid of used needles and syringes. You can also buy a small device that breaks the needle off the syringe. It stores the needle safely so it can be thrown away. Talk with your local trash disposal agency or pharmacy, or with your health professional, about how to get rid of the container.
Other tips for success and safety
You can practice injecting air or water into an orange. Do this until you feel comfortable with the steps for giving insulin. Then do the steps in front of your doctor or certified diabetes educator. Ask him or her how you did.
Teach other family members how to give insulin shots. Make sure that at least one other person can prepare and give your insulin shot in an emergency. It's a good idea to let this person practice giving your scheduled insulin shot. Then he or she will be more familiar with it in an emergency.
Never share syringes with another person. Sharing puts you at risk of getting diseases that can be transferred through blood, such as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) or infection of the liver (hepatitis).
Don't share insulin pens with anyone else who uses insulin. Even when the needle is changed, an insulin pen can carry bacteria or blood that can make another person sick.
Other Works Consulted
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007). Guideline for isolation precautions: Preventing transmission of infectious agents in healthcare settings 2007. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/hicpac/2007IP/2007isolationPrecautions.html.
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.