As well as a healthy eating plan you need insulin to treat your diabetes. Insulin allows the sugar that your body makes from some foods to be used as energy. Insulin can only be given by injection, as your stomach juices would destroy the insulin if you took it by mouth Insulin is free on prescription for people with diabetes.
Where does insulin come from?
Insulin comes from two sources Humulin insulin does not come from people. It is made in a laboratory by a process called biosynthesis or genetic engineering. Sometimes it is produced by modifying pork insulin. Animal insulin is extracted from pork or beef pancreas cells and then purified.
What types of insulin are there?
- Fast acting insulin (clear)
- Soluble/short acting insulin (clear)
- Isophane/medium acting insulin (cloudy)
- Ready made mixtures of short and medium acting insulins (cloudy)
- Long acting insulins (cloudy)
The right insulin (so for you will depend on your lifestyle and how many injections you have each day. You can discuss this with your diabetes care team. How much insulin you need will depend on several things including your body weight and build, how active you are and what you eat, your general health and your emotional state.
It is important that you know the name of the insulin(s) that you are taking.
How is insulin given?
- With a syringe and needle using insulin from a bottle or vial.
- With a pen device and needle and a cartridge of insulin which is changed when empty.
- With a pre-filled pen device and needle which is disposed of when the insulin is finished.
How do I inject my insulin?
- Make sure your hands and injection site are clean (there is no need to use spirit or alcohol).
- If you use cloudy insulin, gently turn upside down and shake to mix.
- Draw up the correct dose of insulin and make sure you remove air bubbles.
- Gather up a fold of your skin and insert the needle into your skin.
- Press the plunger down to push in your insulin, release fold of skin and wait 5 seconds before removing the needle.
Your diabetes specialist nurse will give you detailed help and support when you are first learning to inject insulin.
What else do I need to know?
- It is important to change your injection sites regularly. If you keep injecting in the same place your skin will become lumpy and insulin will not be absorbed properly.
- Insulin is absorbed at different rates from different sites.
- Absorption is also speeded up by exercising after injecting and by heat (eg from baths, saunas or sunbathing)
- Bleeding or bruising after an injection may be worrying but it does you no harm - it happens to everyone at one time or another.
- Talk to your diabetes specialist nurse about the disposal of your used syringes and needles. It is important that you take responsibility for this.
- If you think you have injected the wrong amount of insulin, check your blood sugar levels at regular intervals and take appropriate action. If you are unsure about this, contact your diabetes clinic.
- Insulin pens are another way of giving your insulin and they are a convenient way of carrying it. Pens can be used to inject your insulin whether you have one, two, three or four injections each day.
- Insulin pens are free. Cartridges and pre-filled pens are free on prescription, however you will have to buy the needles you need.
- Spare insulin cartridges and pre-filled pens must be stored in the fridge except for the pen or cartridge you are currently using which can be carried around with you.
- Each pen is different and the manufacturer's instructions must be followed.
Regular blood glucose monitoring helps you know if you need to make adjustments to your insulin dose.