To be honest, I never thought that I would be writing about how to properly inject insulin. When I was going to school for pre-vet biology or disease ecology I was focused on way sexier things such as the reproductive organs of dogs or halibut parasitology. Life has a funny way of steering you where you should be though.
So let’s talk shooting up insulin! There is the recommended way and then there is the way that pretty much every other diabetic that I know does it. Right now I am on multiple daily injection (MDI) instead of the pump (read here). There are two ways to take MDI, which are through a syringe and needle or an insulin pen. Everyone has a personal preference, there is no right or wrong way of getting insulin as long as you have good control. What multiple daily injections mean is that I do not have anything attached to me to continuously give me insulin. I take two different types of insulin, long lasting and fast acting). Every time I eat or drink anything that will affect my blood glucose, which is everything, I need to take my fast acting insulin.
To start off with, here are the guidelines from pretty much every medical professional I have spoken with as well as the American Diabetes Association. Before you inject insulin you need to sanitize the skin with an alcohol swab to help with infection control. Then, you need to use a new needle to again help with infection control. Plus, if you use a previously used needle it can hurt and cause bruising. When you have done that they suggest “pinching” the skin to reduce stinging, which is due to the acidic nature of insulin being lower than our bodies’.
That is the medically suggested way. Now, here is what typically happens for someone taking MDI, not only for me but a majority of other diabetics that I know and love. We read or test what our blood sugar is (read here on the different methods) grab our kits, pull out a needle used or not, lift up our shirt/dress or pull down our pants (we sound like a bunch of exhibitionists) and inject the insulin. Quick and easy, no fuss. I am not discrediting or saying that infection control is not incredibly important. Let me make that clear and say it again, INFECTION CONTROL is very important and should be taken seriously. I would like to say that my first time taking long-lasting insulin would have made my endocrinologist both proud and mortified.
The first time I ever took insulin was in a Seattle airport bathroom stall. The day after my “formal” diagnosis I was flying to Hawaii to be with my family and the time that I was told to take my first insulin dose just so happened to be during my layover in Seattle. You need to understand, at this time I was still in shock and denial. I was also incredibly embarrassed and nervous. I hid in the stall to take my Lantus (a long lasting insulin). As unconventional and frankly gross as that was I made sure to sanitize my skin and use a new needle! Even with a new needle, I had bruising because I was so nervous that I closed my eyes and essentially stabbed myself to get it over with, in addition to my body not being used to injections.
I completely endorse and support the recommendations of the ADA and my medical team and am not trying to discredit what they are saying AT ALL. I take up to 7 shots a day and I am just trying to shed light on what it is really like to live with this disease. It is not pretty. It is not convenient. When you need to take insulin you don’t always think or care about using alcohol wipes or having new needles, you just want to get your lifeline.
By sharing my stories I hope that you have a better understanding of your or your loved one’s “new normal” with diabetes. If you don’t have diabetes I hope that this provides some insight on our day to day struggles that we can absolutely conquer. Now, who wants to get that new needle out, have your favorite meal, and Party Like A Diabetic?