By Taylor Setterfield
2022 UBC PharmD Candidate
Insulin is a truly Canadian discovery that changed the world of medicine 100 years ago. While Banting and Best and the University of Toronto get a lot of praise, there are still numerous patients relying on insulin to live, so we understand this importance at a more personal level. Here at Medicine Shoppe Courtenay, our knowledgeable pharmacist and certified diabetes educator is available to help. Starting insulin can seem like a daunting endeavour, so this article will address the concerns of many!
“I Hate Needles!”
We get it, needles can be scary. Even though you may want or need to start insulin, overcoming your fear of needles can be a dealbreaker. Here are a few needle tips:
- Develop a fear ladder. This is a type of exposure therapy and is very helpful for any phobia. Start with something small, like looking at pictures of needles. Develop a list of activities increasing in your perceived fear, such as watching videos of someone injecting insulin. The top of the fear ladder would be you injecting yourself with your insulin. Dividing up the task into smaller chunks will make overcoming your fear much more manageable.
- Take the time to sit down with your pharmacist and learn about the different needle types and injection options available. Ask to see samples of the different needle sizes for insulin pens and lancets. Today’s needles come in finer, shorter options that are essentially pain-free. In fact, many people don’t even know they’ve done their injection.
“This is expensive…”
The cost of diabetes management can certainly be a concern and may even limit the treatment options available to you. Depending on the type of diabetes, insulin types and doses, devices, and blood glucose monitoring requirements, annual costs can range anywhere from $500 to well over $4,000.
- High costs may be unavoidable, but you should ask your pharmacist what they can do to help if cost is a concern for you. Pharmacists often have access to coverage cards and programs that allow for portions of expenses to be paid, such as covering the cost difference between fast-acting and regular insulin or covering a portion of glucose monitoring systems.
- Improving diet and lifestyle choices is always the number one recommended part of any diabetes care plan, and this will affect your costs as well. Improving your overall health will reduce the amount of insulin needed and lessen glucose monitoring requirements, saving you money.
“What about getting dangerously low blood sugar?”
Some people fear that insulin will cause dangerously low blood sugar levels (severe hypoglycemia). Maybe you have heard of friends or family members who have had a hypoglycemic event. This is a valid concern, but it can easily be managed with proper monitoring and support systems in place.
- Take the time to learn the basics of nutrition, specifically carbohydrate requirements, and how to read nutrition labels properly. Certified diabetes educators are an excellent resource.
- Work with your pharmacist to develop a diet and blood glucose monitoring plan. While this may seem like a lot of work, you may only need to monitor your diet, glucose readings, and insulin dosing for 5 to 7 days to be able to set a baseline that can be used to greatly reduce risk of hypoglycemic events. After that, determining your insulin doses will be easy.
“Doesn’t insulin cause weight gain?”
Many people find that injecting insulin causes weight gain, which is related to the insulin moving glucose out of your blood and into your cells, where it can be used for energy or stored (as glycogen and fat) for later use.
- A small weight gain when starting insulin is generally an expected side effect. However, the risks of high blood glucose levels will vastly outweigh the risks of a few additional pounds, which can be controlled in other ways.
- Again, diet and exercise are the best solution here. A good monitoring plan will account for caloric intake and expenditures to help prevent significant weight gain.
“I don’t want to be dependant on this for life.”
This is a common misconception. Some people can come off insulin or avoid it altogether if they are consistent in making healthy lifestyle changes. Speak to your pharmacist about setting goals. At Medicine Shoppe, we specialize in diabetes care and strive to help you reach your health-related goals by giving you the time and attention you deserve!