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Frequently asked questions about diabetes - read our diabetes treatment FAQ

Should I be worried about starting on insulin treatment for type 2 diabetes?

Moving on to insulin treatment can seem like a big step. You may feel frustrated that your previous treatment didn't work or worry that injections will be painful, or at least inconvenient.

The good news is that getting started on insulin can bring health and lifestyle benefits. It is also almost certainly going to be easier than you think. There is a lot to learn, but there are many resources to help you get started.

How do I take insulin?

Insulin is an injectable medicine made up of insulin hormone suspended in a solution. Unfortunately, insulin cannot be taken as a tablet - it would be destroyed by your digestive system before it could start working1.

Most people with type 2 diabetes use an injectable pen to take insulin. Injection pens are designed to be discreet, easy to use and virtually painless. There is a broad range available to suit different needs, including pre-filled and refillable pens. Some even have a hidden needle2,3.

Your healthcare professional will be able to recommend the pen and injection schedule that best suits your lifestyle and will show you how to administer injections yourself.

How will my daily life be affected when I start on insulin?

Insulin treatment doesn't have to slow you down. Once you've mastered your injection technique, you'll find it only takes a minute or two and can be done almost anywhere. Insulin pens are light, easy to carry and ultra-discreet3

You don't need to keep the insulin you are using in the fridge all the time, but try to store it between 2°C and 8°C (35°F and 47°F). Your disposable pen or insulin cartridge will last four weeks at room temperature (not above 30°C) or fridge (2°C to 8°C). Just don’t leave it in a car or anywhere it could get too hot or cold3,4.

What are the benefits of taking insulin?

Taking insulin can help you manage your blood sugar levels, but the benefits don't stop there. Better blood sugar control can, in turn, have a positive effect on how you feel, your mood, your ability to concentrate and your energy levels5,6.

What about high blood sugar (hypers)?

High blood sugar, also known as hyperglycaemia – or a 'hyper' – can make you to feel unwell. Knowing the warning signs (thirst, hunger, excessive urination) and how to deal with them is the best way to overcome anxiety7

Another benefit of being on insulin treatment is that it helps you get more control over blood sugar highs and lows. A low blood sugar levels are called hypoglycaemia or hypos, and you can read about them here. If you keep experiencing hypos or hypers, your healthcare professional will be able to help you adjust your dose.

Will I gain weight?

People often put on weight when they start insulin treatment, although the amount gained differs from person to person. Some people do not put on any weight at all. Why does this happen? 

When your diabetes is not well controlled, excess blood sugar is flushed out in your urine8. Starting on insulin treatment improves your body's ability to absorb glucose from the food you eat, and what you don't use for energy gets stored as fat9. This means you may put on weight, even if you eat the same amount as before10. You may also gain weight if you snack more to avoid hypoglycaemia.

How can I avoid weight gain on insulin treatment?11
  • Take regular exercise
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet
  • Monitor your weight weekly when you start on insulin
  • Monitor your blood sugar so you know you don't have to
  • snack

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References
  1. American Diabetes Association. Insulin basics. Available from: https://diabetes.org/health-wellness/medication/insulin-basics. Last accessed: March 2024.
  2. American Diabetes Association Professional Practice Committee. 7. Diabetes Technology: Standards of Care in Diabetes-2024. Diabetes Care. 2024;47(Suppl 1):S126-S144. doi:10.2337/dc24-S007
  3. American Diabetes Association. Insulin pens. Available from: https://diabetes.org/about-diabetes/devices-technology/insulin-pens. Last accessed: March 2024.
  4. International Diabetes Federation Europe. Storage of insulin. Available from: https://idf.org/europe/media/uploads/sites/2/2023/06/IDF-Insulin-Storage-Doc-PRINT-VERSION-3mm-bleed-201119-FINAL.pdf Last accessed: March 2024.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The effects of diabetes on the brain. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/diabetes-and-your-brain.html. Last accessed: March 2024.
  6. Penckofer S, Quinn L, Byrn M, Ferrans C, Miller M, Strange P. Does glycemic variability impact mood and quality of life?. Diabetes Technol Ther. 2012;14(4):303-310. doi:10.1089/dia.2011.0191
  7. NHS UK. Hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar). Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-blood-sugar-hyperglycaemia/ Last accessed: March 2024.
  8. Healthline. Is Frequent Urination a Symptom of Diabetes?. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/frequent-urination-diabetes. Last accessed: March 2024.
  9. Diabetes UK. What is insulin? Available from: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/managing-your-diabetes/treating-your-diabetes/insulin/what-is-insulin Last accessed: March 2024.
  10. McFarlane SI. Insulin therapy and type 2 diabetes: management of weight gain. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2009;11:601-607. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-7176.2009.00063.x
  11. American Diabetes Association Professional Practice Committee. 5. Facilitating Positive Health Behaviors and Well-being to Improve Health Outcomes: Standards of Care in Diabetes-2024. Diabetes Care. 2024;47(Suppl 1):S77-S110. doi:10.2337/dc24-S005

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