Busting 5 Insulin Treatment Myths
Insulin tends to be one of the more misunderstood aspects of type 2 diabetes (T2D) management. In my career as a certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES), I've heard insulin described as a "weapon" to punish you for high blood sugar, a signal that you've failed to manage your diabetes, or a "last resort" option.
What are insulin-use myths?
These misconceptions, along with misinformation about insulin use in T2D, may lead to fear about using this vital tool in your treatment plan. Therefore, I'm tackling 5 common insulin-use myths in type 2 diabetes management.
Myth 1: Using insulin in T2D means you now have type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) and T2D are very different. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, and type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disease that develops over time. That means, unless you were misdiagnosed, your type of diabetes remains the same despite your treatment plan.1
If you have T2D and need insulin to manage your blood sugars, you may notice your medical diagnosis changes to "insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes."1
Myth 2: You'll always be on insulin
Insulin needs can change for a variety of reasons. Some people need insulin when they're diagnosed with T2D because of very high blood sugar but later wean off it. Others need insulin off and on based on their other health issues.
For example, you may need insulin during steroid use. And, other folks may remain on insulin after starting it as a treatment plan. Because your body's needs change over time, it's not uncommon to see your insulin doses change over time as well.2
Myth 3: Taking insulin will stop your body from making insulin
It's important, first, to understand insulin's job. Insulin is needed by the body to move glucose (sugar) into your cells for energy. Without insulin, you die.1
That means your body HAS to have insulin to survive. If you don't make enough, you must give your body insulin. By giving yourself insulin, you don't stop your body's natural insulin production. Instead, you're filling the gap between what your body needs and what it isn't able to make.
For example, imagine your body needs a cup of insulin daily to live.* If your body can only make ½ cup of insulin itself, you'll need to give it the remaining ½ cup to function well. *Note: insulin is not measured in cups – this is just an analogy.2,3
Myth 4: Taking insulin causes diabetes complications.
Insulin can have side effects (low blood sugar, weight gain). However, it does NOT cause diabetes complications.
Complications of diabetes come from a combination of harmful blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, and cholesterol. Insulin is a treatment option to prevent blood glucose levels from becoming dangerously high.1,2
Myth 5: High blood sugars after starting insulin mean insulin doesn't work
There are so many reasons you may not see a change in your blood sugars when starting insulin. Over the years in my work as a CDCES, I've seen it all. Certain factors that can impact the effectiveness of insulin include:
- Timing of insulin doses
- Insulin injection methods
- Insulin pen use errors
- Weak insulin doses
These issues are usually a result of communication breakdown between the person with diabetes and their medical team. Ways to prevent this can include:
- Asking for an insulin pen/vial demonstration
- Questioning how to store insulin
- Asking how to give a dose
- Clarifying dose timing and amounts
Understanding insulin and your needs
Ensure you understand how often to call your provider with blood sugar levels for insulin adjustments can help. Also, ask for referrals! Dietitians, pharmacists, and nurses specializing in diabetes care and education, along with endocrinologists, are great resources for helping you troubleshoot why your insulin doses aren't working for you.1,3
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