Insulin is a hormone produced by the beta cells in your pancreas. Insulin allows the cells in the body to access glucose from the blood and use it for fuel.
Type 1 diabetes occurs when your insulin producing beta cells are destroyed by the body’s immune system, causing these cells to stop producing insulin. It’s treated by replacing the body’s natural insulin with multiple insulin injections or with the use of an insulin pump.
People living with type 2 diabetes may also eventually require insulin injections. Over time, the cells which make insulin are progressively unable to make enough effective insulin and the body’s supply may need to be boosted with injected insulin.
It’s normal to have concerns or feel anxious about insulin injections. Here are a few things to consider when starting insulin.
Injecting insulin – a new skill
Injecting insulin is an easy skill to learn. It’s recommended that you get specific training and support when you start insulin. Your GP, practice nurse or ideally a diabetes educator will help you to learn and gain confidence in starting and using insulin therapy. This may take more than one visit.
You may have concerns about starting insulin. There are many misconceptions and myths around insulin therapy. It’s advisable to discuss your thoughts about insulin with a health professional who can answer all your questions. You can also talk to them about the difficulties you might be facing and the personal goals you’d like to set. Read more about starting insulin in the NDSS factsheet.
Your doctor will give you a prescription for your insulin. Insulin pens are usually offered in either a refillable pen or a multidose disposable pen. You’ll need to bring your pen with you on the day of your insulin start. You’ll also need to have a sharps container to dispose of the used insulin pen needles. These can be purchased via our online shop or from your local pharmacy.
Your NDSS registration will need to be updated via the NDSS medication change form. Your doctor, specialist, pharmacist or diabetes educator can do this for you. Your registration will allow you to access free needles for your insulin injections and subsidised access to blood glucose test strips.
See a dietitian
Healthy eating remains very important when commencing or using insulin therapy. Along with the help of a diabetes educator, a dietitian can help you to balance insulin and food. A dietitian can also help you understand how certain foods will affect your blood glucose readings and provide personalised support for healthy eating with diabetes.
Check your blood glucose levels
Discuss the best times to check your blood glucose levels with your doctor, diabetes educator or other members of your diabetes team. They can advise you what your target blood glucose reading should be, both before and after food. Your insulin may be adjusted depending on your blood glucose readings.
Maintain healthy lifestyle choices
Healthy food choices and being physically active remains important when starting and using insulin. This is vital in managing your weight, blood glucose levels and other factors such as cholesterol and general health and wellbeing.
When starting insulin you will learn not only about insulin but other special considerations when using insulin therapy. Starting insulin can bring up an array of emotions and feelings about your health and diabetes. It’s important to discuss any concerns you have with your diabetes team.