If you have
type 1 diabetes—or if you have
type 2 diabetes and other diabetes medicines are not
controlling your blood sugar—you have to take
insulin. If you have
you may need to take insulin if diet and exercise have not been able to keep
your blood sugar levels within your target range.
With little or
no insulin, sugar (glucose) in the blood cannot enter your cells to be used for
energy. As a result, the sugar in your blood rises above a safe level. When
your blood sugar rises past about 180 mg/dL, your kidneys begin to release
sugar into the urine, which can make you
dehydrated. If you are dehydrated, your kidneys make
less urine, which means your body can't get rid of extra sugar. This is when
blood sugar levels rise.
Taking insulin can prevent the symptoms of high blood sugar and emergencies
diabetic ketoacidosis (in type 1 diabetes) and
hyperosmolar coma (in type 2 diabetes). Insulin also
can help lower blood sugar, which can prevent serious and permanent complications from long-term high blood
The three most important elements of success in giving insulin injections
Making sure you have the right dose of insulin,
especially if you are giving two types of insulin in the same
Practicing how to give your injection.
the insulin properly so that each dose will work effectively.
health professional or certified diabetes educator (CDE) will help you learn to prepare and give your insulin dose.
Here are some simple steps to help you learn this task.
To get ready to give an insulin
injection, follow these steps.
Wash your hands with
soap and running water. Dry them thoroughly.
Gather your supplies. Most people keep their supplies in a bag or kit
so they can carry the supplies wherever they go.
You will need an
insulin syringe, your bottle (or bottles) of insulin, and an alcohol wipe or a
cotton ball dipped in alcohol.
If you are using an insulin pen, you will need a needle that works with your pen. If the pen is reusable, you may need an insulin cartridge. You may also need an alcohol swab.
When you use an
insulin bottle for the first time, write the date on the bottle. On the 30th
day after opening, throw away the bottle with any remaining insulin. Insulin
may not work as well after 30 days of use.
On a reusable insulin pen, note the date you started using the pen. Reusable pens expire (for example, after several years).
Check that a disposable pen's insulin has not expired. This date is usually printed on the pen's label.
Prepare the injection
Your preparation will depend
on whether you are giving one type of insulin or mixing two types of
Dispose of your
used syringe, disposable insulin pen, or needle. Do not throw your used syringe, needle, or insulin pen into a household
wastebasket or trash can. You can dispose of them in a metal container, such as
a coffee can, that has a lid that screws on or that you tape down tightly. You
also can buy special containers for disposing of used needles and syringes. You
can also buy a small needle clipper device that breaks the needle off the
syringe and stores it safely for disposal. Talk with your local trash disposal
agency, pharmacy, or your health professional about how to get rid of the
Other tips for success and safety
practice injecting air or water into an orange until you feel comfortable with the
steps for giving insulin. Then do the steps in front of your doctor or certified diabetes educator and ask him or
her how you did.
Teach other family members how to give insulin
injections. Have at least one other person who can prepare and give your insulin injection in an emergency. It's a good idea to let this person
give your scheduled insulin injection for practice. Then it will not be as
unfamiliar when an emergency occurs.
Never share syringes with another person because of
the risk of getting diseases that can be transferred through blood, such as
human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or infection of the liver
Other Works Consulted
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007). Guideline for isolation precautions: Preventing transmission of infectious agents in healthcare settings 2007. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/hicpac/2007IP/2007isolationPrecautions.html.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.